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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micsca

The state attorney General will take over the case? It will take them 5 to 10 minutes before they drop all charges

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heybobareebob

40 prosecuters in this little podunk county?


Niles Q

SLO County is heavy with law enforcement, so that would take a lot of DAs to meet the caseload.

Just in little Morro Bay, they arrest and/or cite about 10,000 people a year and handle well over 20,000 “incidents,” or interactions with the public, from traffic stops to crime reports, to check the welfare calls and false alarms. Cops are busy no matter the size of the town or county, so it follows that the DA’s Office would be busy as well.

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mullyman

The smile is the thought of how money she will get from the lawsuit against the city which is sure to follow. These people come in and violate the laws create havoc and then cry foul and say they were the victims. The city will pay them off as it’s cheaper than going to court and they will go away. These people do not care about any of the real racial issues they just want to keep stoking the fire and keep the past alive instead of working to make the future better for everyone.


Boldguy

I surely hope that the DA’s office appeals this decision, Dow has the right to express his political views, a Judge does to, just not through judicial decisions :(


Vigilant Citizen

This is insane.


Zoiebowie

No consequences for your actions. That’s where were headed. Way to go Guerrero.


IDBOUND

It’s pretty slick how Dow arranged free campaign advertising …To his tough on crime voters they are pleased to read his e-mail and that it appeared Dow was taking Arata to trial for her crimes …..To his not tough on crime voters it appears he has dropped the ball with purpose and will not file an objection to the ruling and will not look bad in their eyes for taking Arata to trial .When AG decides to not prosecute another feather for Dow …Its a win win for Dow …Politics is a crafty sport


Adam Trask

Great photo Mr. Bastian (top). It is not only a great view of a lady with obvious confidence—the eyes tell you everything, but also technically proficient, with the three masked women all in a row, chronicling the reality of a nation dealing with a highly infectious disease.


I look forward to more of your photos.


jdchem

Infectious disease? That is some awfully strong rhetoric for their cause.


Adam Trask

I have no opinion on their cause. I was simply reacting to the stark image of people wearing masks. Masks are a sign of the times. That’s all I was commenting on. I strictly judged the photos, without reading the text. Photos tell me so much more, in most cases.


Adam Trask

Wait, what? I get down votes for praising the photographer? The top picture is quality journalistic photography.


blackjack

You gotta’ admit, a photo of a masked up Larry H. Parker with one of his clients who is faking a neck injury would be just as cool.


jimmy_me

Anything that smells like it does not support the conservative cause gets downvoted around here. If the photograph had showed the woman in a orange jumpsuit and shackles it would have generated up votes.


slo-to-load

I hope the CA Attorney General continues to prosecute this case, because crimes were definitely committed here, especially the person that assaulted a police officer. But honestly, Dow brought this on himself with his foolish decision to send that email. What was he thinking? He’s not even up for re-election for another 1.5 years – why is he sending out fund raising emails at the time like this?? If all these politicians worried less about raising money and getting reelected and more about actually doing the job the voters elected them to do, we would all be far better off!


ghostpepper

agreed.. I hope people don’t take the wrong message from this. This action does not say that she didn’t do anything wrong or that the charges are false, it is just acknowledging that the DA, by his own actions unrelated to the actions being charged against, undermined his office’s ability to push this to a conclusion without obvious bias.


sigh.. here’s to hoping the issue doesn’t get lost in the shuffle or buried and forgotten in the transfer to the AG and gets handled properly!


chocolate_addict

This is clearly an activist judge, a registered Democrat and clearly sympathetic to the defendant. He should have recused himself from ruling because he could not be objective. He’s hoping that no DA will prosecute or she will get a lenient DA. What is interesting a former client of mine got in trouble for absent mindedly making calls from the polling location when she thought she was out of earshot of polling booths and this was turned into a huge case in my opinion but you have someone here who is accused of some pretty serious stuff and they want to walk and probably has a lot of supporters. The double standard here is insane.