San Luis Obispo County judge halts more cases against BLM protesters

January 21, 2021

June 1, 2020 protest


A San Luis Obispo County judge on Tuesday halted the criminal case against five Black Lives Matter protesters who are being prosecuted for actions at a demonstration separate than the one that led to charges against activist Tianna Arata and her co-defendants.

Judge Michael Duffy ruled to suspend proceedings in both the Arata case, stemming from a July 21, 2020 protest, and the case of five protesters who face misdemeanor counts stemming from a June 1, 2020 demonstration.

Duffy suspended court proceedings pending the result of an appeal filed by the SLO County District Attorney’s Office and the California Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutors are appealing a ruling by Judge Matthew Guerrero to disqualify the DA’s office from the Arata case due to his finding that District Attorney Dan Dow had a conflict of interest in prosecuting the Black Lives Matter activist.

Gianna Stoddard, 27, Henry Popp, 19; and Abigail Landis, Michael Gates and Alexandra Bahramzadehebrahimi, all 22, face misdemeanor charges for allegedly obstructing officers and failing to disperse when police declared an unlawful assembly and fired tear gas on June 1.

Their attorneys did not join in the effort by Arata’s lawyers to disqualify Dow. Nonetheless, Duffy granted their request to continue the hearings for the case stemming from the June 1 protest until the case against Arata and her three co-defendants can resume.

Duffy scheduled a hearing for March 3 to provide updates on the progress of the appeal of the disqualification of the district attorney’s office. Deputy Attorney General William Frank said it is extremely optimistic to expect a ruling on the appeal to be close to occurring within the next 90 days.

The SLO County District Attorney and the California Attorney General’s opening briefs are due within 30 days of the certification of the appeal. The defendants briefs are due 40 days later, and then the Court has 20 days to certify the record of appeal.


Law enforcement and prosecution should be apolitical. If it isn’t, the case is at risk. The issue will become enforcement bias and the prosecution’s bias not the crime involved. This was Dow’s mistake.


Shouldn’t that be more so for judges as well? Shouldn’t judges be beyond bias per their calling regarding the Constitution? Sadly that’s not the case as we’ve seen for decades now. Political bias or prejudices should have no place in a courtroom by any including defense attorneys and judges. This accusation of a bias or prejudice isn’t limited to Mr. Dow sir. Our rule of law has been corrupted by the political greed for power and control. All are guilty of this failure and should labeled as such. You stand corrected.


Yes, judges too, definitely. Justice needs to be impartial. Political impartiality should be a requirement of holding these positions.

Defense attorneys are a different matter. They are hired to defend their clients within limits.


Spoken like a defense attorney. Judge and D.A. to follow rule of law with no prejudice or bias, but defense attorney, not so much.

Does defending them include, being deceitful, purposely misleading, inferring falsely to taint, and in many cases outright embellish the facts? Do those limits include promoting false accusations of racism and bigotry on the prosecution while being unethical, lacking integrity and character themselves? That’s within the limits? Really? It appears so in this case with the help of a bias judge like Guerrero.


It’s the defense attorney’s job to promote their clients’ interests within ethical bounds. It is what they do in the legal system. Have the protestors attorneys’ gone beyond ethical boundaries? That is the question.

This is why our judges, DA and law enforcement should be politically neutral, unbiased, as free from prejudice as possible, off social media, and out of groups that have strong social and political leanings. If they aren’t, their decisions and prosecutions will be vulnerable.


All should be off social media including the defense attorney and those they represent. It has a strong possibility of tainting the jury pool. There are way to many judges that are not unbias or lacking political leaning. The scales are longer close to being balanced. It’s all been turned upside down. I no longer have any faith in our system of justice, and that’s scary.


I suspect you would not be saying this and be as forgiving if it were a bunch of older white males, mostly Republicans, who endangered the traveling public by stopping traffic on HWY 101. Or if they shattered glass over a toddler in a car seat, or stopped a pregnant woman from going to the hospital.

Or shaking down businesses in the downtown for money with an implied threat if they don’t hand over the dough. Or how about shouting vulgar epithets in the faces of diners eating outside at local restaurants.

No, somehow I doubt you would be as forgiving.