Attorney Calls Out DA Stephan’s Political Bias Against ‘Antifascists’, Asks for Her Disqualification From Case Involving Pro-Trump March

by on November 15, 2023 · 1 comment

in Civil Rights, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Screen shot from DA Summer’s 2018 campaign website showing Soros superimposed over antifa protesters.

If you were disturbed by candidate Trump’s recent “vermin” speech and have been concerned about the country ever since the coup attempt on January 6th, 2021. this story should interest you deeply.

This Friday morning in San Diego Superior Court there will be a hearing on a motion by a defense attorney accusing San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and her office of being politically biased against anti-fascists and should be disqualified from a case where he’s defending a young man.

The defendant – along with 10 others – are self-described anti-fascists accused by Stephan of participating in a violent altercation at a pro-Trump march 2 1/2 years ago in Pacific Beach. One of the charges is conspiracy on the basis of being alleged “antifa supporters.”

The defense attorney, Curtis Briggs, from San Francisco and brother of local attorney Cory Briggs, argues that Stephan’s office cannot fairly prosecute his client in part because of Stephan’s past campaign materials vilifying antifa and therefore should be disqualified from the case. Prosecutors strongly contend there is no conflict of interest. If Briggs’ hearing goes his way, California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s Office would take over the prosecution.

Briggs represents defendant Jeremy Jonathan White and believes he has the evidence to prove the bias allegations against DA Stephan. At the top of his list of evidence is Stephan’s controversial 2018 campaign website which featured a menacing image of antifa marchers behind a superimposed photo of George Soros, the billionaire liberal activist who is often vilified in conservative circles. Soros had donated money to a super PAC supporting Stephan’s opponent.

And significantly, Briggs argues that “Stephan’s office has demonstrated a long pattern of failing or refusing to prosecute violent acts committed at political rallies by members of documented right-wing hate groups, including some who are among the alleged victims in the Pacific Beach prosecution,” as U-T reporter Alex Riggins writes.

This story is significant and the U-T ran it as the top story on the front page above the “fold” Monday, Nov. 13 under the headline in all caps, “Lawyer Says DA Is Biased Against Antifa”.

The Rag has been watching this story over the last couple of years:

  • Lawsuit Maintains San Diego Police Showed Favoritism towards Trump Supporters During Pacific Beach Protest, February 9, 2021
  • It Is Unacceptable That Only Left-Wing Counterprotesters Are Arrested From January Clash With Trump Supporters in Pacific Beach, December 6, 2021
  • At Least 5 Capitol Insurrectionists Were at Violent Pacific Beach Clash, December 9, 2021
  • Leftist Counter-Protesters at Pacific Beach Clash With Trump Supporters Face Stiffer Sentences Than Jan. 6 Insurrectionists, June 9, 2022

Here are portions of Riggins report — (for UT subscribers only)

Lawyer alleges political bias, asks judge to throw District Attorney Stephan off antifa prosecution

By Alex Riggins / San Diego Union-Tribune / Nov. 11, 2023

… The case stems from a “Patriot March” held Jan. 9, 2021, just three days after supporters of then-President Donald Trump had stormed the U.S. Capitol. Pro-Trump attendees of the Pacific Beach rally, including several people who’d been at the Capitol just days earlier, clashed with black-clad counterprotesters on the streets near Crystal Pier. Later that year, the District Attorney’s Office asserted that “video evidence analysis shows that overwhelmingly the violence in this incident was perpetrated by the Antifa affiliates and was not a mutual fray.”

Experts who study domestic extremism said the criminal case marked the first time ever that prosecutors had used a conspiracy charge specifically to prosecute alleged members of antifa, which is generally considered a decentralized movement of street activists often made up of socialists, anarchists and other left-wing ideologues.

Prosecutorial disqualification motions are difficult to win, but Curtis Briggs, the San Francisco-based defense attorney who filed the motion, has had recent success in a similar case. Last year, he was among the defense lawyers who successfully disqualified San Luis Obispo County’s district attorney from prosecuting Black Lives Matter demonstrators, convincing both a trial judge and appellate court that the district attorney was politically biased against the group. …

“(Stephan) prosecutes anti-fascists vigorously, while systematically ignoring vicious acts by known right-wing extremists who perpetrate violence at protests,” the disqualification motion argues. “Stephan has misled the public about the events giving rise to the prosecution of Mr. White and inexcusably deceived the Grand Jury by concealing the ‘victims’ associations with the American Guard, Proud Boys, and Defend East County — sworn enemies of antifa. No defendant in this case can be dealt with fairly by Stephan.”

Stephan’s office responded Thursday with its own motion vehemently denying the existence of a political bias. The response alleged the defense motion “is riddled with fantasies and falsehoods, and presents a disjointed litany of perceived grievances not amounting to ‘conflicts of interest’ within the meaning of the law.” The office also highlighted several hate-crime convictions it has won during Stephan’s tenure and similar prosecutions it is carrying out now.

The decision whether to disqualify Stephan’s office from prosecuting the case will fall to Judge Daniel Goldstein, who in September denied a motion to dismiss the case filed by defense attorneys challenging several different aspects of the prosecution.

The motion to disqualify

Based on the way that trial judges and appellate courts have interpreted the California statute, defense attorneys must convince a judge of two things in order to disqualify a district attorney: first, that a conflict of interest exists; and second, that the conflict is so severe that the defendant cannot receive a fair trial. …

But, according to the courts, in exercising his or her constitutionally protected free-speech rights, a prosecutor cannot deprive a defendant of his or her constitutionally protected right to a fair trial.

The motion to disqualify the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office argues Stephan has crossed that line, alleging she’s “been unable to separate her political platform against antifa from her ethical duty to enforce the law evenhandedly.”

This, the motion argues, “has resulted in false allegations against Mr. White while (Stephan) has formed a prosecutorial shield around a core group of right-wing hate groups that have been responsible for a string of brutal publicized attacks at San Diego protests, including the one for which Mr. White is falsely accused.”

To argue this point, the defense motion points to Stefan’s “Threat to San Diego” website from her 2018 campaign that featured the image of Soros over black-clad protesters. The site, which is now defunct, drew criticism at the time, as did Stephan’s tweet with a link to the site and the same image of Soros, a Hungarian-American Jew and Holocaust survivor.

“Claims that George Soros funds antifa or is otherwise involved in fomenting civil unrest related to Black Lives Matter protests are false and touch on longstanding, sometimes antisemitic conspiracy theories,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The defense motion alleges that “Stephan’s use of such propaganda conveyed two important messages” — that voters could expect her to treat antifa as the enemy, and that she shared a similar ideology to right-wing extremists whose own ideologies “are largely based on the same conspiracy theories but with an antisemitic slant.”

In that same vein, the defense motion alleges that right-wing extremists helped fund Stephan’s 2018 campaign, providing documentation purporting to show Stephan received a $100 campaign contribution from the alleged president of the Southern California chapter of the American Guard, a group the Anti-Defamation League describes as “hardcore white supremacists.”

And the motion claims that despite violence on both sides of the Pacific Beach protest, investigators and prosecutors targeted only the left-wing counterprotesters. The motion alleges that decision is part of a pattern dating back years in which prosecutors have declined to charge right-wing demonstrators who engage in violence at public protests, even when those demonstrators are members of documented hate groups. The motion asserts that some of the alleged victims in the antifa prosecution are themselves members of the American Guard and other hate groups.

The motion highlights previous, unprosecuted attacks allegedly carried out by the Pacific Beach victims and their associates, all of them captured in news footage, that occurred in December 2017, June 2019, September 2020 and July 2021.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Frank Gormlie November 16, 2023 at 8:54 am

This is a very important case for San Diego, progressive activist circles here and elsewhere, California and the nation. I had not seen Stephan’s 2018 campaign flyer with Soros on it Disgusting! Not here unevenhanded persecutions make more sense: she’s just following her own politics. (I wonder if she believes Biden won the election.)


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