Witness stunned by sudden outbreak of violence at state Capitol
William Scott Planer must wait another two weeks to be arraigned in a violent state Capitol clash with anti-fascist demonstrators ahead of a trial in the June 2016 melee, but his attorney said the white supremacist is looking forward to taking his case to a jury.
“Mr. Planer doesn’t think he committed a felony. He says he’s seeking a trial,” Planer attorney Danny Brace said Thursday following Planer’s brief Sacramento Superior Court appearance. Planer is a member of the Traditionalist Worker Party, the group whose joint rally with fellow hate group Golden State Skinheads on the state Capitol grounds disintegrated into a wild brawl with counterprotesters. Ten people were injured in the violence including at least five who had been stabbed.
Planer, 35, a Sacramento native, now of Denver, was arrested along with anti-Nazi demonstrators Yvonne Felarca, Michael Williams and Porfirio Paz on suspicion of felony assault and participating in a riot after a yearlong investigation by California Highway Patrol and Sacramento County district attorney’s officials. Sacramento County prosecutors dropped the rioting allegation last month, but a judge after Planer’s January preliminary hearing ordered the Colorado man to stand trial on the assault charge.
Planer will be arraigned Feb. 23 when a trial date will likely be set.
Prosecutors, citing video images taken during the clash, say Planer struck one of the protesters with a pole or stick. Planer in November rejected an offer by prosecutors to plead to the alleged attacks in exchange for a four-year prison term. On Thursday, Brace said Planer was hit first and doused with pepper spray before swinging back in self-defense with a discarded stick used against his comrades.
“He was whacked, sprayed – there was pepper spray all over,” Brace said. “He was struck first and reacted to the blow. It’s a matter of self-defense.”
Planer’s alleged victim has been “uncooperative,” Sacramento County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said on Wednesday, adding the case against the Colorado man is moving forward.
Attorneys for the counter-demonstrators want assault charges against their clients dropped, arguing the three were victims of neo-Nazi violence and a witch hunt by local authorities. A Sacramento Superior Court judge is expected to decide Friday whether to dismiss those charges.