Patriot Prayer suit against Multnomah DA moves forward
Lawyers accusing Multnomah County's district attorney of engaging in "selective, bad faith" prosecution of a well-known conservative have pushed a lawsuit forward in federal court.
Judge Karin J. Immergut ordered District Attorney Mike Schmidt to hand over documents, drafts, emails and memos regarding the DA's nonprosecution policy for protest-related crimes — including any documents related to the charge filed against Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson.
Gibson's attorneys claim the nonprosecution policy — crafted this August in response to months of Black Lives Matter protests — should apply retroactively to a notorious brawl on the patio of the now-defunct bar Cider Riot! on May 1, 2019.
Schmidt's policy applies to the 964 arrests made by local officers during the unprecedented four-month-long uprising, and drops charges for all cases that do not involve deliberate property damage, theft or the threat or actual use of violence. So far, Schmidt's office has filed charges in 23 cases, and announced one conviction.
The federal suit seeks to dismiss the felony criminal case against Gibson, claiming a systematic bias favoring left-wing protesters — and detesting right-wing protesters — allegedly held by Portland's political establishment and media.
"Respect the First Amendment, put an end to this sham prosecution aimed at silencing Mr. Gibson, and stop wasting the taxpayers' money," said Gibson's attorneys, Angus Lee and James Buchal, after the court granted part of an expedited discovery motion Sept. 30.
Read the motion here. The clash at the cidery involved about 50 anti-fascists and about 15 members of the right-wing group, according to court documents. Months later, Gibson and five other men affiliated with Patriot Prayer were each charged with a single count of riot. Two men cut plea deals in January, but the other cases are unresolved.
According to court papers submitted in the circuit court criminal case, Portland Police Bureau detective Christopher Traynor "observed all six individuals physically and verbally taunting members of the 'antifa' group in an effort clearly designed to provoke a fight."
The detective cited footage of Gibson repeatedly saying "do something" after being spit upon as evidence he was challenging his opponents to fight, and said Gibson and the other men formed a circle around two other individuals swinging fists.
In contrast, Gibson and co-plaintiff Russell Schultz both maintained in affidavits that they "damaged no property, threw nothing and committed no assaults."
"I have greatly reduced my political activity in the Portland area out of fear that additional baseless charges will be filed," the two men state in affidavits. Schultz also alleged that he lost an employment opportunity due to the charges.
Gibson has not organized forays into downtown Portland this summer, as in previous years, but he did appear outside the police union building during a protest in North Portland on Aug. 18 — organized a pro-police rally in Camas on Aug. 28, and spoke at a Trump rally in Oregon City on Sept. 7, according to media reports. Gibson was chased into a gas station after he rushed downtown the night his supporter Aaron "Jay" Danielson was fatally shot.
Joey Gibson, founder of far-right group Patriot Prayer arrived to accost protesters about the altercation that left a person badly injured last night. Crowds were angered by his presence, & ejected him from the protest. #PortlandProtests #PDXProtests #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/sh9eWBuUUA— Justin Yau (@PDocumentarians) August 18, 2020
Facebook removed Patriot Prayer's profile page a few days after the homicide.
Buchal, who is chair of the Multnomah County GOP, previously sought to move the criminal case out of Multnomah County, claiming his client could not get a fair trial. A judge denied that motion in March.
Buchal says Gibson has been maligned for years.
"My representation of plaintiff Gibson is the only case I have ever had in my career where I find personal acquaintances asking why I am representing a 'Nazi,'" Buchal said in a court filing. "The pervasive impact of the war waged upon plaintiff Gibson and his views by Leftist leaders in Portland is to me unprecedented and reminds me of nothing so much as the 'two minutes of hate' from 1984."
A spokesman for the district attorney said their office does not comment on pending litigation.
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