By KAREN VELIE
A Black Lives Matter protester was again ordered to either agree to diversion or face trial for false imprisonment related to detaining a driver during a July 21, 2020 BLM march through the streets of San Luis Obispo, during a hearing on Friday.
Amman Asfaw’s attorney Earl Conaway filed another motion to dismiss, the latest was sought in the “furtherance of justice,” according to the motion. The filing included a letter of recommendation from Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong.
Conaway touted Asfaw’s accomplishments as a first-generation U.S. citizen and the racism he has endured. Conaway argued that a car knocked Asfaw down while he was walking in a crosswalk.
Deputy District Attorney Delaney Henretty called Conaway’s description a gross mischaracterization. Asfaw was not walking across a sidewalk and he was not knocked down — he sat down, Henretty said, noting Asfaw detained his alleged victims to force them to hear his message.
“What if this was a white supremacist rally that detained Asfaw’s family?” Henretty said. “How can you not respect the rights of the pastor and his wife?”
Conaway also argued that the charges were politically and racially motivated.
“We are free to say this is politically motivated because a judge has found it to be politically motivated,” Conaway argued.
In 2020, Judge Matt Guerrero ruled that District Attorney Dan Dow had a clear conflict of interest, and that local prosecutors should be replaced by the California Office of the Attorney General. The state then appealed Guerrero’s ruling. The appellate court has yet to make a decision.
Near the end of Friday’s hearing, SLO County Superior Court Judge Roger Picquet said he looked at all the letters Asfaw provided from the Cal Poly community, the SLO City Council and the community at large. Picquet said he was impressed by Asfaw’s background.
However, Conaway’s motion was not based on a fact finding exercise, Picquet said.
In addition, Picquet said Asfaw could have chosen diversion.
In early 2021, Henretty offered misdemeanor diversion to five of the seven defendants charged following the July 21 protest, which means they could have their charges dismissed if they agree to attend classes or do community service. All five defendants declined the offer.
Picquet said it was inappropriate to grant Conaway’s motion for dismissal. He then set a readiness conference for May 6.