BLM protesters file claims against SLO County District Attorney

January 31, 2021

District Attorney Dan Dow

By KAREN VELIE

Three BLM protesters have filed claims against San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow alleging discrimination, bias and malicious prosecution over charges related to a July 21 rally in which property was damaged and vehicles blocked. The protesters are seeking damages in excess of $10,000 each.

Lawyers for Tianna Arata, Sam Grocott and Robert Lastra claim their civil rights were violated when they were charged with multiple misdemeanors and, in Lastra’s case, a felony charge.

They cite a SLO County Superior Court Judge’s decision to disqualify Dow and his office from prosecutions in connection with the protest as evidence showing that Dow engaged in discrimination against them.

Judge Matt Guerrero concluded that a fundraising email from Dow and his wife demonstrated a clear conflict of interest between his reelection bid and his role as the district attorney prosecuting the protesters.

The email asked for support for Dow as he leads a 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.”

Arata and Grocott say that the conflict of interest demonstrates that Dow acted with prejudice against them. Two of the claimants are white and one is black.

“Superior Court Judge Matt Guerrero found unparalleled bias and discrimination in the DA’s office and the prosecution of Arata,” according to Arata’s Jan. 21 claim filed with the county. “Violations of her civil rights under federal and state laws is alleged. DA Dow has defamed Arata, prosecuted her in an unlawful manner.”

The allegations in Arata and Grocott’s claims are identical. The third claim, filed for Lastra, accuses Dow of trying to coverup an attempted murder.

Arata, Grocott and Lastra describe damages from defamation, lost wages and emotional distress in the civil complaint filed by the San Fransisco office of Seville Briggs attorneys.

Tianna Arata standing on a highway barrier

Last July, Arata is alleged to have led approximately 300 protesters onto Highway 101 from both Osos Street and California Boulevard, blocking all lanes in both directions for nearly an hour. While on the highway, protesters ran after vehicles attempting to drive off the freeway, blocked vehicles, and yelled profanities at some of the drivers, videos of the protest showed.

Grocott and Lastra were among protesters who encircled a car driven by motorist who was attempting to drive around the protesters.

“One suspect jumped on the hood of the victim’s vehicle and an additional suspect broke the rear window out of the vehicle with a skateboard as the vehicle was leaving the area,” according to the CHP.

Robert Lastra dancing during the protest

Glass shattered on a 4-year-old boy who was sitting in the back seat. The boy was not physically harmed.

The defendants claim the driver hit Grocott as he attempted to drive away, tossing Grocott on the hood of the car and prompting Lastra to throw a skateboard at the back window. Grocott alleges he was assaulted. Lastra claims it was attempted murder.

Prosecutors charged Arata with 13 misdemeanor counts in September: one count of unlawful assembly, one count of disturbing the peace, six counts of obstruction of a thoroughfare and five counts of false imprisonment. Officers, who arrested Arata on the night of the protest, had asked prosecutors to file five felony and three misdemeanor charges.

In October, prosecutors filed three misdemeanor charges of false imprisonment against Grocott, and a felony charge of vandalism and a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment against Lastra.

In response to Judge Guerrero’s ruling disqualifying the entire SLO County District Attorney’s Office, the California Attorney General’s Office and Dow filed appeals. It will likely be at least three months before the court rules on the appeal.

If SLO County rejects the protesters’ claims, they can then file lawsuits.

Even though the claims name Dow and Does 1 through 10, prosecutors are immune from liability, which means that they cannot be sued for their decisions as prosecutors. However, if lawsuits are successful, the county could face liability.

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Niles Q

By this logic, anyone who is arrested and charged with a crime could cry racism and sue the people who arrested and are prosecuting them.

I’ll say it again, these people scream “No Justice, No Peace,” but when justice comes knocking on their door, they want no part of it.

My how things have changed from the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King would have gladly gone to jail and eagerly looked forward to his day in court.

But these people want no part of the criminal justice system, even when the original charges have been dropped from felonies to misdemeanors.

They disparage the system that gives them the very freedom to protest that they so loudly exercise.

When will their lawyers explain to them that they are not being prosecuted for their beliefs or their race. They are charged with violating public safety laws, which apply to everyone and are meant to establish a set of rules that everyone MUST obey to ensure public safety.


Cmonnow

I think they all know why they’re being prosecuted. You’re correct, they want nothing to do with justice now…the rubber is meeting the road and its getting hot.


commonsenseguy

I find it interesting the false claim of discrimination by this group of hypocrites. The leader, Tianna Arata is the poster child for these bigoted, hate-filled, and divisive individuals. Once again they blatantly show their lack of responsibility, accountability, or remorse for their own destructive acts of discrimination. They are responsible for where they find themselves. Nobody else should be blamed or made a scape goat for their uncivil actions of terror and hate against our communities. Playing the race card while being racist and bigoted as all these are is sickening. You might be able to sway a political bias judge like Guerrero, but we see through fog of your lies.


Their attorney’s are not pursuing justice for them. While falsely claiming to pursue justice, they have morphed into a distorted and unjust act of revengeful justice which has no place in the courtroom. The lies and deceitful actions these attorneys need to be called out. The bias of Judge Guerrero needs to be brought to light as well. We should all pursue justice, and at times mercy, but in this case, it has been highjacked by the defendants bigotry, racism and hatred.


slo_full_of_slow_learners

who gives a sh*t. So tired of this “story”


Vigilant Citizen

You apparently still read the article and took time to post. The story is ongoing and so should the reporting. Have a nice day and try to not let these things bother you.


tidepool

A classic ‘Smoke and Mirror’ distraction from the criminal defense team. Bottom line; they are guilty and there is more than enough video serving as proof. Holding innocent people hostage on the 101, child endangerment, causing harm to a pregnant woman in labor, the list goes on…Dan Dow is an excellent DA. I do have to laugh at the ‘lost wages’ charge for the civil suit. You have to be gainfully employed to sue for lost wages, not feeding off the trough of the Welfare Public Assistance train. But having been raised on the Welfare System, these 3 have a sense of entitlement.


Cindy

The protesters are well organized. They are suing police and prosecutors across the nation for doing their jobs. They violate the law by blocking freeways and surrounding the cars of those trying to get away.


Dow is against human traffickers and he says so while he campaigns, so does he have a conflict of interest in his office for prosecuting traffickers?


While claiming to protest for civil rights, they support civil rights based on race, which is racism. People should be judged on their actions not the color of their skin.


And Judge Matt Guerrero is a political animal. He should go back into politics and resign his position on the bench. Justice is supposed to be blind, Matt wants it to be based on skin color.


LameCommenter

Guerrero’s disqualification action was an indefensible airhead politics move.


@#$@ $#@, HOW do these unqualified jerkwaters gain such power in our society, to make inane pronouncements from a position of power which they disgrace?


These are not inconsequential mutterings from some enrobed disgrace to his judicial office; we are talking tampering with the prosecution of criminals who intentionally restrained the liberty of hundreds of victims.


Remove, recall, vote out the disgrace.


shelworth

So if a DA holds bias against people who break the law, that’s now violating their civil rights? Just when I thought the world couldn’t get any stupider.


Cmonnow

You ain’t kiddin.


copperhead

embolden lawlessness even more.. a few hundred thousand for each of them and diversity training for the DA sounds about right.


Buchon

Normally I would concur. In these cases however, there’s simply too much hard evidence for things to go that sideways. Then again, we are talking about govt.


Buchon

So the lies continue… Tianna Arata, Sam Grocott and Robert Lastra are only postponing the obvious. They’re going to be found guilty. Mr. Lastra also needs to be schooled on how to properly wear a mask.