‘What happened here at the Capitol was a complete scandal’
Attorneys for the counterprotesters arrested at 2016’s infamous clash with neo-Nazis at the state capitol will return in February with new calls to dismiss the case after a bizarrely truncated afternoon hearing Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court.
About two dozen demonstrators’ shouts, chants and calls for justice for the three facing assault charges – Berkeley teacher and activist Yvonne Felarca, Michael Williams, 56, and Porfirio Paz, 19, a student from Long Beach – rang outside Sacramento County’s Patino Hall of Justice at the main jail.
But in the end, everyone was left wanting: the rows of demonstrators who filled the courtroom in support of the three protesters arrested during the bloody clash; the defense attorneys who argued their clients are victims of hollow, politically motivated criminal charges; the visibly frustrated county prosecutor; and the Superior Court judge apparently blindsided by a last-minute oral motion by defense attorneys to drop the criminal counts.
Defense attorneys missed a Dec. 12 deadline to file the motion to dismiss in Sacramento Superior Court.
The charges rose out of a joint rally of the Traditionalist Worker Party and Golden State Skinheads at the Capitol in June 2016 that quickly spun out of control with a clash between the neo-Nazis and anti-fascist demonstrators. The brawls that ensued left at least 10 people hurt, including five with stab wounds, and the arrests of Felarca, Paz, Williams, and a suspected neo-Nazi sympathizer, William Scott Planer, 35, whose case continues in the Sacramento courts.
“I hear 80 to 100 cases a day. I don’t even know what this case is about. I need help here and I’m not getting it. From lawyers,” Sacramento Superior Court Judge Jaime Roman told Felarca defense attorney Shanta Driver. “Let’s do this the right way. Give me a date and we’ll do this.”
The defense team of Driver, Mark Reichel and Bay area attorney Ronald Cruz, along with Sacramento County deputy prosecutor Paris Coleman, agreed to a Feb. 9 date to return to Roman’s courtroom – a two-week window for defense to file its dismissal motion. A fourth defense attorney, Linda Parisi, was in trial in another courtroom.
Coleman said he never received a motion to dismiss.
“We’ve given them plenty of time,” Coleman said. “They had plenty of time to file.”
Defense attorneys were expected to file dismissal motions in December but said Thursday that they have yet to receive authenticated police reports or videos of the violent scrum among the hundreds of pages of discovery handed over by prosecutors as they continue to wait for yet more evidence.
A frustrated Coleman, reached on the walk back to the District Attorney’s downtown offices, declined to comment on the case.
Outside the courtroom, attorneys for the counterprotesters showed photos of those they say were stabbed or otherwise attacked by members of the neo-Nazi groups who gathered on the capitol grounds for the rally, calling the charges against their clients “a rush to judgment.”
“People wanted these (counterprotesters) charged, but you have to have evidence to charge,” said Paz’s attorney Reichel. “It should never be that the Nazi party wins the popularity contest on who gets charged.”