Attorneys for the three counterprotesters arrested in a violent brawl with white supremacists at the state Capitol asked a Sacramento judge Wednesday to throw out criminal charges against the trio.
Berkeley teacher and activist Yvette Felarca, 47, Michael Williams, 56, and Porfirio Paz, 19, face assault charges in the June 2016 donnybrook that erupted at a rally of the Traditionalist Worker Party and Golden State Skinheads when party members clashed with anti-fascist demonstrators. The three are slated to return Jan. 18 to Sacramento Superior Court. All three say they were acting in self-defense fending off attacks during the violence on the Capitol grounds.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Jaime Roman gave the defense attorneys a Dec. 12 deadline to file their dismissal motions.
Defense attorneys following the Wednesday hearing alternately called Sacramento County’s prosecution of the trio “silly,” “ridiculous,” and politically motivated, and said they will ask county prosecutors to turn over more evidence in the case.
“There are a lot of critical omissions that we’re going to be requesting,” including police reports and chain-of-evidence information, said Felarca attorney Ronald Cruz, adding that he will soon draw up a motion to dismiss charges.
The charges against Felarca, who has been associated with the antifa movement, are “entirely political in character,” Cruz said. “They’re only prosecuting her on her political views.” He also cited video footage from the scene that he contends “clearly shows Nazis stabbing people.”
Hearings in the case have been emotionally charged from the outset. Drumming and chanting demonstrators protested in support of Felarca, Paz and Williams outside Sacramento County Main Jail during an August hearing in the case.
On Wednesday, a scuffle broke out during Felarca defense attorney Shanta Driver’s post-hearing remarks to reporters outside the downtown jail. The tussle began when a man knocked away a camera phone wielded by another man wearing a badge that identified him as “media” who had begun to heckle Driver.
The pair tussled to the ground, but were quickly broken up. No one was arrested.
The heckler, named on the badge as “Jose Lopez,” later identified himself to reporters as Carlos Ramirez. He said he attended the afternoon hearing as an observer. He criticized Felarca, saying “anyone who doesn’t agree with her ideology is a fascist,” and added that he’s “one of a bunch of people trying to stop violence on both sides.”
At least 10 people were wounded in the 2016 Capitol riot, including five with stab wounds. After the melee, the California Highway Patrol came under fire for the way it responded to the chaotic scene. The CHP launched a yearlong investigation that ultimately led to the arrests of Felarca, Paz, Williams and a fourth man, William Scott Planer.
Planer, a suspected neo-Nazi facing assault charges for his alleged actions during the violent melee, appeared briefly Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court. Prosecutors after combing through surveillance footage alleged Planer, 34, attacked a counterdemonstrator with a pole or stick.
Planer is originally from Sacramento. He had been living in Colorado where he is reported to be a well-known white supremacist and faces charges tied to the defacing of a synagogue there in July, according to the Anti-Defamation League. He was brought to California in September to face charges related to the Capitol brawl.
Planer remains held at Sacramento County Main Jail in lieu of $600,000 bail. He returns Nov. 17 to Sacramento Superior Court.