Judge disqualifies SLO County district attorney for political reasons

December 11, 2020

Tianna Arata outside courthouse, photo by Richard Bastian

By KAREN VELIE

The court disqualified the entire San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office on Friday from prosecuting seven Black Lives Matter defendants charged with crimes allegedly committed during a July protest. Instead, the California Attorney General’s Office will take over the prosecution.

SLO County Superior Court Judge Matt Guerrero ruled the District Attorney’s Office has a clear conflict of interest based on the wording of an email District Attorney Dan Dow and his wife sent supporters seeking donations. The email asks Dow’s supporters to help him lead the fight against the “wacky defund the police movement and anarchist groups that are trying to undermine the rule of law and public safety in our community.”

Based on the small number of prosecutors in Dow’s office, approximately 40, Guerrero ruled they were all compromised, while tears fell from defendant Tianna Arata’s eyes.

On Thursday, defense attorneys argued that Dow’s personal political opinions jeopardize the seven defendant’s rights to a fair trial. The dependents include Arata, Robert Lastra, Sam Grocott, Jerad Hill, Marcus Montgomery, Joshua Powell and Amman Asfaw.

In opposition, Deputy Attorney General Zee Rodriguez argued against the disqualification noting the defense is required to show an actual conflict of interest and not a perceived conflict. In addition, the defendants failed to follow statutory requirements, such as proving affidavits and not relying on unsupported allegations, she said.

It is not yet known if prosecutors plan to object to the ruling.

Patrick Fisher and Tianna Arata walking to the courthouse, photo by Richard Bastian

Judge Guerrero split the baby on the motion to compel discovery, noting that the defendants already had most of the discovery they had requested. He then ordered prosecutors to provide correspondence between law enforcement and prosecutors and for forms reflecting cases referred for prosecution for black clients over the past 20 years, which they had requested to show systemic racism in local law enforcement.

Judge Guerrero denied the defendant’s motions for a gag order and to drop the cases based on the defense attorneys’ failures to meet statutory requirements. Guerrero then accepted not guilty pleas from all of the defendants.


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coyote

Clearly the good judge should be disqualified since apparently he has a dog in this fight.https://www.ksby.com/news/local-news/naacp-slo-county-hosts-town-hall-on-truth-civility-and-reconciliation


Gramelin

Last week on the Dave C show. They were talking about how Dan Dow should resign. Anyway, some Lady called in calling Dow a Racist! And Dave asked her, “Why do you call him a racist?” She replied, “Because he is WHITE!” ” ALL WHITE people are racist!”

With idiots like that out there, this will Never be put to rest! Her oblivious response just astounded me. Who is she to speculate on Peoples ideals? Just because SOME are does not mean EVERY white is. She is a Racist herself! I am disgusted with ALL racists. WE are ALL from the same DNA! We all share a bit of each other. There is no difference between you and me based on color of skin. IT needs to end! And this idiot lady who responded in such a way is ignorant.


derasmus

Shame on you Judge Guerrero.


Jorge Estrada

I thought as an American we are allowed to have a bias of choice. Certainly the DA is not on the side of the perpetrator, they hire their own attorney to defend their case. The public wants is to prosecute those who grossly break the law. We do not care about race, color or the sexual preference of those who block our highways or cause damage to others, we want this activity stopped while not penalizing the law abiding residents for this expense.


Jorge Estrada

It just occurred to me that since I’m not from this country, from a 3rd world country, I do not need to be trained about racism, suppression and the privilege class. It is obvious to me that the charges are about breaking the law through risky misconduct. It is very troubling to me that while people are homeless, hungry and truly sick, there are people that find joy in depleting large sums of public money over of their flavor of hatred, which they want to promote. I now see and example of how a beautiful face can become the face of hatred, which is becoming pandemic in SLO.


Niles Q

When does Judge Matt Guerrero stand for re-election? Someone should run against this bonehead.

I agree, acquittal is likely now. I don’t see the Attorney General, who is supposedly going to get Kamala Harris’ senate seat, prosecuting BLM zealots, especially for misdemeanors.

Funny how the people who protest for justice, run and hide behind claims of racism, when it comes knocking on their door.


south

Nice job Matt. Looks like politics is calling your name.


south

I’ll add a nuance. It looks like this decision was a message saying that he is actually ready for a higher court and is reliably an activist judge, perfect for the 9th Circuit. Even has a perfect last name to complete quotas.


J-Man

Well what would the BLM do? Let’s protest outside of this judges house!


copperhead

OJ strategy. Go after the cops and prosecutors and make the case about them. Dismissal is already going to happen. The judge is just trying to make it appear legitimate. Disgusting


JohnnyBoy

Chalk this up as a huge defense win. When the Attorney General’s office gets involved, nothing good can come of it. They are notoriously inept in criminal proceedings.


So, here is my prediction:


1. Chief honcho, AG Xavier Becerra will order his deputy to dismiss the case outright, or


2. The case will die a slow death by benign neglect, or


3. In the very unlikely event the case moved to a trial situation, they Deputy AG assigned will not have had much, if any trial experience. The result will just be a prolonged version of benign neglect resulting in an acquittal.