As the lone white supremacist arrested in 2016’s bloody clash with counterprotesters returns to court Thursday, anti-fascist demonstrators plan to seek dismissal of the charges against them, claiming they were victims of a “witch hunt” by Sacramento authorities.
Ronald Cruz, attorney for Yvonne Felarca, the Berkeley teacher and activist and her co-defendants, Michael Williams and Porfirio Paz, contends they were targeted by California Highway Patrol and Sacramento County district attorney’s officials who covered up for violent white supremacists after the bloody rioting that left 10 people wounded. The three anti-fascist demonstrators were arrested a year after the June 26, 2016, rally of Traditionalist Workers Party and Golden State Skinheads at the state Capitol.
But Sacramento County district attorney’s officials pointed to the arrest of William Planer, a Traditionalist Worker Party member facing a felony assault charge connected to the riot, as evidence against the demonstrators’ claims. Planer, 35, is slated to appear Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court.
A Sacramento Superior Court judge is expected to decide Friday whether to drop assault and rioting charges against Felarca, Williams and Paz.
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“This police policy of cover-up has helped the fascists get away with attempted murder,” Cruz wrote in his 33-page dismissal motion. “The 133 police officers who were deployed, many on horseback, stood down as people were viciously stabbed and continued to stand down after multiple people lay on the ground with multiple stab wounds ....”
Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said only one of the five counter-demonstrators stabbed in the melee has talked with investigators. Others, he said, “declined to respond to our repeated investigative outreach” and that because of a lack of forensic evidence their assailants have yet to be identified. Grippi said the investigation remains open.
Grippi said Planer’s alleged victim was “uncooperative,” but the case against the Colorado man is moving forward.
“Virtually every assertion made in the defense motion is false,” said Grippi in a statement. “Our objective is to have the case heard in a court of law ... rather than on the street corner or in the local press.”
Planer, 35, held in Sacramento County custody in lieu of $600,000 bail, rejected a plea offer by prosecutors in December. “Our commitment to a fair and just conclusion in court is resolute,” Grippi said in the statement.
In his motion, Cruz argued Felarca and the others were victims first of neo-Nazi attacks on the Capitol lawn – Felarca needed 24 stitches to close wounds to her head and arm, he said – then of a sham investigation and selective prosecution by CHP and Sacramento County prosecutors. Defense attorneys maintain the three were defending themselves from attack and have criticized the patrol’s response to the rioting and the DA’s Office for its lengthy inquiry despite numerous video and photo images taken during the chaos.
Cruz’s motion alleges CHP investigators listed a roll call of at least six Nazi sympathizers identified by video in the vicinity of a black man who was attacked, stabbed and wounded. According to the defense motion, CHP investigators concluded that charges should not be brought because the stabbings could not be linked to one specific person.
CHP investigators released 2,000 pages of findings on the violence and sought numerous arrests, but district attorney’s officials upon the report’s release said its prosecutors were unable to identify many involved in the incident.
But excerpts of declarations scattered elsewhere through Cruz’s motion describe other alleged attacks on counterprotesters.
“If you dig a little deeper, you can (bring charges),” Paz attorney Mark Reichel said. “We are talking about Nazi sympathizers. I find it hard to believe that with the evidence available, the databases on hate groups, the type of surveillance that we have today – it just seems that there was not the will to do it.”