By JOSH FRIEDMAN
A San Luis Obispo County judge on Tuesday halted the criminal case against five Black Lives Matter protesters who are being prosecuted for actions at a demonstration separate than the one that led to charges against activist Tianna Arata and her co-defendants.
Judge Michael Duffy ruled to suspend proceedings in both the Arata case, stemming from a July 21, 2020 protest, and the case of five protesters who face misdemeanor counts stemming from a June 1, 2020 demonstration.
Duffy suspended court proceedings pending the result of an appeal filed by the SLO County District Attorney’s Office and the California Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutors are appealing a ruling by Judge Matthew Guerrero to disqualify the DA’s office from the Arata case due to his finding that District Attorney Dan Dow had a conflict of interest in prosecuting the Black Lives Matter activist.
Gianna Stoddard, 27, Henry Popp, 19; and Abigail Landis, Michael Gates and Alexandra Bahramzadehebrahimi, all 22, face misdemeanor charges for allegedly obstructing officers and failing to disperse when police declared an unlawful assembly and fired tear gas on June 1.
Their attorneys did not join in the effort by Arata’s lawyers to disqualify Dow. Nonetheless, Duffy granted their request to continue the hearings for the case stemming from the June 1 protest until the case against Arata and her three co-defendants can resume.
Duffy scheduled a hearing for March 3 to provide updates on the progress of the appeal of the disqualification of the district attorney’s office. Deputy Attorney General William Frank said it is extremely optimistic to expect a ruling on the appeal to be close to occurring within the next 90 days.
The SLO County District Attorney and the California Attorney General’s opening briefs are due within 30 days of the certification of the appeal. The defendants briefs are due 40 days later, and then the Court has 20 days to certify the record of appeal.