San Luis Obispo County Supreme Court judge on Friday approved a defense motion to deny the San Luis Obispo County Prosecutor’s office from pursuing the case against community activist Tiana Arata.
Arata, accused of 13 misdemeanors in connection with the July 21 demonstration titled Black Lives Matter in San Luis Obispo, appeared in court via a live broadcast Friday morning.
Her attorneys argued in court Thursday that Attorney General Dan Dow made several statements on social media and at public events that show implicit bias against the Black Lives Matter movement.
Judge Matthew Guerrero said in his ruling: “The men and women accused here are entitled to a trial that is not compromised by political or personal benefit to the Prosecutor. This is particularly indicated in a case in which the defendants protested against injustice and systemic bias. The court’s conclusion of a clear and actual conflict of interest makes it unlikely. That the accused receive fair treatment during all stages of criminal proceedings. “
“This is one of the most important judgments of a US courtroom in the history of this country in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Curtis Briggs, Tiana Arata’s attorney, on Judge Matthew Guerrero’s decision to impeach Embed a Tweet From the case prosecution pic.twitter.com/9OXOY3dwle
– Megan Healy (@ MeganHealyTV) December 11, 2020
Judge Guerrero specifically referred to a September 4 campaign fundraising email that Dow and his wife sent.
Judge Guerrero said: “The email of 4 September 2020 demonstrates an apparent conflict of interest.” “First, by sending this fundraising email to tens of thousands of people immediately after the charges were brought, Mr. Dow sought political and professional benefits and campaign contributions in conjunction with the prosecution of the above cases.”
In part, the email reads, “Dan needs to know more than ever that you support him and he really needs your financial support so he can continue to lead the fight in SLO County against the idiot who is stopping the police movement and anarchic groups trying to undermine the rule of law and public safety. We had planned to collect donations for his election campaign this month, but due to COVID and all the crazy protest activities, we were unable to achieve that. “
Judge Guerrero described the use of the terms “anarchist”, “madman” and “foolish” as “flaming” and said, “These are extrajudicial statements issued to potential jurors in an attempt to influence them and get them to make financial contributions.”
KSBY News has reached out to the Dow and the Prosecutor’s Office for comment.
The case will now be sent to the California State Attorney’s Office.
During the July 21 protest, protesters blocked Highway 101. Police claimed that some protesters had committed acts of vandalism.
Arata was arrested that night but was not formally charged by the DA until early September. The charges against her include obstructing the road, wrongful imprisonment, illegal assembly, and disturbing the peace through loud noises.
In October, Marcus Montgomery, Joshua Powell, and Oman Asfau were added as co-defendants.
Montgomery is accused of false imprisonment, obstruction of a person’s free movement in a public place, and resisting or delaying a peace officer. Powell is accused of resisting or delaying a peace officer, and Asfaw faces charges of wrongful imprisonment.
In a separate but related case, Robert Lastra Jr., Sam Grokot, and Grad Hill are also facing protest charges.
Lastra was charged with false imprisonment and felony of sabotage for allegedly throwing a skateboard at a silver BMW, shattering the rear window of the car. Grocott, who told KSBY News that he was stunned by BMW, faces three counts of wrongful imprisonment, and Hill is charged with one count for both false imprisonment and sabotage.
Elias Bautista, who police say assaulted an officer during Arata’s arrest on July 21, has pleaded not guilty to charges of resisting an executive and resisting, obstructing, or delaying a peace officer.