Five Antifa activists were found not guilty of misdemeanor assault charges after being accused of beating up a supporter of President Donald Trump at a rally in Berkeley, California, last year, KNTV-TV reported.
'Local heroes who stood up to neo-fascist attacks'
Prosecutors alleged that Taylor Fuller, Scott Hedrick, Nathan Perry, Jeff Armstrong and Dustin Sawtelle beat Daniel Quillinan at a Trump rally on March 4, 2017, the station said.
Berkeley Police Sgt. Jesse Grant wrote in a probable cause statement that Quillinan was seated and being treated for a cut requiring stitches when the five counterprotesters — known as "the Berkeley 5 anti-fascist protesters" in the parlance of radical outfit By Any Means Necessary — kicked and punched him numerous times, KNTV reported.
Perry also was charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of a leaded cane or billyclub, the station said, but the Alameda County Superior Court jury on Monday found the defendants not guilty of all charges.
BAMN also called the five defendants "local heroes who stood up to neo-fascist attacks" and were "falsely charged by neo-fascists and local law enforcement to advance Trump's agenda in the direction of a police state," KNTV added.
Quillinan, on the other hand, was described by BAMN as "a self-proclaimed fascist sympathizer and one of the main organizers of the repeated alt-right protests in Berkeley in 2017."
Several jurors told Berkeleyside the jury was in agreement early on regarding the not guilty verdicts but still deliberated for nearly a day. They said the jury wasn't convinced a crime occurred, the paper reported.
Here's a video documenting some of what happened that day. (Content warning: Language):
More from Berkeleyside:
Prosecutor Jim Logan, with the Alameda County district attorney’s office, told jurors Friday during closing arguments that he wouldn’t blame them if they found Quillinan’s political views repulsive. But Logan said that didn’t mean Quillinan deserved to be attacked as he sat near firefighters, with a bandage wrapped completely around his head, waiting for a friend to take him to the hospital: “Just because the victim is dislikable doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply,” Logan said. “The defendants don’t get to decide … punishment on the street. That’s what the courtroom is for.”
Defense attorney Shanta Driver told the jury it was Quillinan who provoked an argument with a group of passers-by that included some of her clients. She said they only tried to defend themselves, as Quillinan tried to strike them with a wooden shield, and argued that Berkeley police were “treating Mr. Quillinan as a victim, and as somebody whose rights were denied, while treating these five [defendants] as villains and perpetrators of violence.”
Driver — also a national organizer for BAMN — put fellow BAMN leader Yvette Felarca on the witness stand along with the five defendants, Berkeleyside reported. Felarca — a well-known Antifa activist who advocates violence and squashing free speech — has been arrested for riot-related offenses a couple times herself.
Dozens of supporters of the five defendants showed up in court for much of the trial and were found laughing, sighing, hissing, and applauding, Berkeleyside said, adding that one of them even held up a political flier while facing the jury and demanding the court to “drop the charges” against the Antifa activists. The judge repeatedly admonished such behavior, the paper said, but it continued apace.
More from Berkeleyside:
It wasn’t the only logistical challenge. Throughout the first day and much of the second, during breaks, jurors stood outside the courtroom and rode the elevator within earshot of defense supporters who loudly discussed their views and criticized the prosecution. Jurors are under strict orders to focus only on evidence presented in court, and to have no outside discussions or external exposure to the case to ensure an unbiased process. Eventually, during the second day of testimony, Judge [Alison] Tucher ordered jurors to spend all breaks inside the jury room, and had the bailiff keep them separate from the crowd.
What else did the prosecution say?
Logan emphasized to the jury that two firefighters and a Berkeley police officer said they saw the group swarm Quillinan and unleash 10 to 20 punches and 10 to 15 kicks, the paper said, adding that the alleged attackers scattered when police and firefighters got there.
The prosecutor asked jurors to decide if they believed the testimony of first responders and view the defendants' testimony with skepticism, as they all described the incident with the “same six facts," Berkeleyside reported.
Logan also pointed to the defendants' smiles and their laughter during the trial, noting they "think it’s a joke,” the paper said.
(H/T: The American Mirror)