The former Occupy protester accused of striking Mayor Kevin Johnson with a pie during a charity dinner last week did not enter a plea for a felony charge of assaulting a public official and a misdemeanor charge of battery on school property during his arraignment hearing Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday night, Sean Thompson went to the Sacramento City Council meeting to address the mayor and his colleagues on the dais. Subject to a protective order, Thompson had to keep his distance from Johnson. Supporters wore yellow T-shirts that said “coconut cream pie, the peoples [sic] pie.”
In his brief remarks near the end of the meeting, Thompson lamented what he said was the council’s ignoring of the homeless, minorities and Sacramento’s struggling working class. He cited the shooting of a black mentally ill man, Joseph Mann, by police officers in July as an example of the city’s woes.
Thompson then asked council members if they were familiar with the phrase “bread and circuses,” a description from ancient Rome of policies meant to placate the masses with entertainment. The mayor, he said, had focused on building a new downtown arena while neglecting more important social issues.
“This arena has been your circus,” Thompson told Johnson. “It’s been a joke. You’ve been the ringleader. You’ve been the lead clown, and that’s why I threw a pie at you.”
Johnson didn’t respond.
Earlier, in Sacramento Superior Court on Tuesday, Judge Jaime Roman set a preliminary hearing in Thompson’s case for Oct. 20. Deputy District Attorney Anthony Ortiz and Claire White, Thompson’s attorney, agreed that Thompson can remain released on his own recognizance.
“Mr. Thompson is prepared to enter a plea of not guilty at the point that we’ve set a preliminary hearing. That’s essentially de facto what has happened,” White told reporters outside of the courtroom Tuesday. “We are not going to plead guilty to these charges and we are not going to accept a felony.”
Thompson, who was released Friday after bondswoman Marilyn Young of Knotty Girls Bail Bonds pooled money to pay for is bail, wore a gray vest, black jeans and sandals during the hearing.
The charges stem from a Sept. 21 incident at the Sacramento Charter High School in Oak Park in which Thompson allegedly approached the mayor from behind and shoved a pie into his face.
Johnson, who was on the campus for a charity dinner at his alma mater, then took Thompson to the ground and a scuffle between the two men ensued, according to witnesses and photographs obtained by The Sacramento Bee.
Following the incident, Johnson’s chief of staff, Crystal Strait, said, “Let me be clear, the mayor was assaulted.”
Thompson was sent to a hospital before being booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail with a $100,000 bail. His mug shot showed a bruised left eye and a set of stitches on his face, which have since been removed.
White told reporters Monday at a news conference that her client had been punished enough by the injuries he received during the attack when Johnson tackled and punched him. White said that Thompson did not intend to harm the mayor and that charges should be dropped.
“This was a purely political act,” White said. “There was no intent to injure ... merely to embarrass.”
Earlier on Monday, White said Thompson was planning to announce a civil lawsuit against Johnson. White restated on Tuesday that the lawsuit was not being pursued immediately but it was “not off the table.”
Johnson said Monday that he did nothing wrong when he punched Thompson.
“When somebody comes up from behind you and slugs you – and in my case you didn’t know what it was at the time and thought it was a punch – you have a right to defend yourself,” he said.
Ortiz reminded the judge that the protective order barring Thompson from making contact with Johnson was still in effect. White said Thompson planned on making a statement at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, which was allowed by the order as long as he stays 20 feet away from Johnson.
Though the preliminary hearing is set for next month, White said she hopes the District Attorney’s Office will reconsider dropping the charges against Thompson.
“The (district attorney) declined to dismiss charges today,” White said. Expressing hope the charges would be revised, she said “we’re prepared to go forward.”