Witness stunned by sudden outbreak of violence at state Capitol
The trial of a white supremacist accused of assault in a 2016 melee at California’s Capitol ended in a mistrial Monday as jurors failed to reach a verdict.
After days of testimony before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie and days more deliberation, jurors at 9:17 a.m. Monday declared they were hopelessly deadlocked in the trial of William Scott Planer. The count after five ballots: 8-4 to convict, the jury’s foreman told Boulware.
Boulware declared a mistrial, told attorneys to return to court Friday and set a March 19 date to schedule a potential second trial.
It was immediately unclear whether Sacramento County district attorney’s prosecutors plan to retry the case.
Planer faced an assault charge in the June 2016 clash between members of the Traditional Workers Party, Golden State Skinheads and anti-fascist counterprotesters at a rally on the grounds of the state Capitol that left 10 injured, including at least five who were stabbed. He was accused of striking a counterprotester with a pole or stick amid the chaos.
His attorneys say he acted in self-defense.
“It’s clear that the prosecution didn’t meet their burden and it’s clear that Mr. Planer hadn’t gone (to the rally) to incite violence,” Planer’s attorney Michelle Spaulding said Monday outside the Sacramento County Courthouse. “This centers on his reaction to a perceived threat.”
Planer, a Sacramento native extradited in 2017 from Colorado, where he had been arrested on suspicion of defacing a Colorado Springs synagogue, had rejected earlier plea deals and pressed for a trial. He invoked his constitutional right to a speedy trial Monday, setting up Friday’s return to court.
Planer remains in Sacramento County custody in lieu of $600,000 bail.
Monday’s mistrial comes as three counterprotesters prepare for their upcoming trial on assault charges tied to the rioting.
Berkeley teacher-activist Yvonne Felarca; Brown Beret member Michael Williams, who provided security for the counterprotesters; and Porfirio Paz will be arraigned Feb. 13 before Boulware following a Jan. 25 preliminary hearing on the charges.
Felarca and Williams face felony assault charges in the brawl, but Boulware reduced Paz’s charge to a misdemeanor at the January hearing. The three remain free on bail.
“It should never be a felony to defend yourself against fascists,” Paz’s attorney, Mark Reichel, said after the counterprotesters’ January preliminary hearing.
The trio – known to their supporters as the “Sacramento 3” – say they tried to defend themselves from their attackers and were targeted for arrest and prosecution by local and state law enforcement agencies whom they accuse of working in league with the supremacist groups.
The response to the brawl by California Highway Patrol officers assigned to the Capitol and the arrests of Planer and the three counterprotesters were marked by controversy.
The CHP was roundly criticized for a perceived lax response to the rioting. A year-long investigation by Highway Patrol officials produced 2,000 pages of findings for county prosecutors but just the four arrests.