Jury selection could begin as early as Monday in the trial of pie-lobbing activist Sean Thompson, as attorneys for the Sacramento man say they are “prepared to go the distance” in the case.
“We are taking this felony charge incredibly seriously,” Claire White, Thompson’s attorney, told reporters outside Sacramento Superior Court Judge Delbert Oros’ fourth-floor courtroom. “In particular, we’ll argue that Sean’s act was necessary to prevent evil here in the city of Sacramento.”
Thompson is facing a felony assault charge along with a misdemeanor count for his pieing of former Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson at a benefit event at Sacramento Charter High School in Oak Park in September 2016. Thompson appeared in court Thursday as attorneys met with Oros to go over ground rules for the upcoming trial. Oros on Thursday also pored over what defense attorneys said were “lengthy and numerous motions” ahead of an afternoon session with attorneys.
Thompson, with defense attorneys White and Jeffrey Mendelman, has maintained from the outset that the Sept. 21 incident was an act of political theater borne of Johnson’s failure to address homelessness in the city, and did not rise to the level of a felony.
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Johnson was not amused by the face full of banana cream in the September incident. He turned on the pie-wielding Thompson landing several blows before he was restrained by staffers. Thompson was left bruised and bloodied after the exchange.
In the months since the incident, Thompson said he was busying himself with work and hinted that he continues to adjust to the attention his case has attracted.
“Mostly just working. I have a life of my own, a relationship, self-employed. I’m trying to lay low,” Thompson told reporters. “There’s been a lot of media attention that I’m just not ready for.”
White reiterated her office’s ongoing attempts to serve the former mayor with a subpoena to testify at trial, saying Johnson is “actively ducking” defense’s subpoena attempts, and calling county prosecutors’ plans not to have Johnson take the stand “shameful.”
“If this is serious enough to charge (Thompson) with a felony, Kevin Johnson should at least show up,” White said.
Johnson’s name appears on a two-page list of potential defense witnesses, including character witnesses who can testify, the papers declare, to Thompson’s “nonviolence, peacefulness and truthfulness.”
The list is a collection of advocates, including Sister Libby Fernandez, formerly of Loaves and Fishes, Sacramento city officials including council member Allen Warren and city homeless coordinator Emily Halcon, witnesses to the September incident, and Sacramento police Officer Calvin Lim, who was a member of then-Mayor Johnson’s security detail.
Oros on Thursday said Thompson’s attorneys could call 16 Sacramento police officers who were at the benefit event and filed reports after the incident to the stand.
Defense attorneys also received 68 photos taken by police officers of the incident that were once feared lost. White said they plan to introduce the images into evidence at trial.
Testimony remains days away but questions remained over which judge will preside over the matter.
Oros was assigned to the trial, but the judge told attorneys Thursday that potential schedule conflicts in May could cause him to hand over the case to another judge.