SLO County BLM protester appeal headed back to the appellate court

April 8, 2021

Tianna Arata, in the center, stomping on a burnt flag


In the latest legal round regarding a group of Black Lives Matter protesters who blocked Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo last summer, the appellate court reversed their earlier decision not to hear an appeal of Judge Matthew Guerrero’s recusal of county prosecutors.

In early January, the attorney general filed two appeals regarding Guerrero’s finding the SLO County District Attorney’s Office had a conflict of interest, one in the felony case against Robert Lastra — the protester who allegedly smashed a car window onto a 4-year-old boy — and one in the misdemeanor filings against the remaining six defendants. Generally, the 2nd District Court of Appeal hears felony appeals, while a panel of three SLO County Superior Court judges rule on misdemeanor appeals.

Lastra’s attorney Brian Ford filed a motion in March arguing his client’s appeal should be moved to the SLO County Court where Judge Guerrero’s coworkers would hear the case. In his request, Ford noted case law regarding a felony that had been dropped to a misdemeanor. But Lastra’s case remained a felony.

Then, without giving the Office of the Attorney General an opportunity to refute Ford’s assertions, the Second Appellate District Court determined the SLO County Superior Court had jurisdiction over the appeal.

Deputy Attorney General Charles Lee petitioned the court to change their order, as Lastra was charged with a felony. In addition, in order to avoid conflicting results that could occur if the superior court hears the misdemeanor appeals while the appellate court rules on the felony appeal, Lee asked that all appeals related to Judge Guerrero’s ruling be heard in the appellate court.

On May 7, the Second Appellate District Court determined the appeal over Guerrero’s decision to recuse the entire district attorney’s office from prosecuting Lastra and his co-defendants Sam Grocott and Jerad Hill belongs in the appellate court.

In addition, if the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court does not transfer the appeals regarding Tianna Arata, Marcus Montgomery, Joshua Powell and Amman Asfaw to the higher court, the appellate court plans to entertain the petition to transfer those cases, according to Wednesday’s order.

During a Dec. 10 hearing, defense attorneys argued that District Attorney Dan Dow’s personal political opinions jeopardized the seven defendants’ rights to a fair trial. The defendants include Arata, Lastra, Grocott, Hill, Montgomery, Powell and Asfaw.

In opposition to the defense, prosecutors argued against the disqualification, noting the defense is required to show an actual conflict of interest and not a perceived conflict.

Judge Guerrero then ruled that Dow had a clear conflict of interest based on the wording of an email he and and his wife sent to supporters seeking donations. The email asked supporters to help Dow 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.”

Regardless of whether the appellate court or three SLO County judges hear the appeals regarding Judge Guerrero’s ruling, after legal briefs are filed by both the prosecutors and the defense attorneys, oral arguments will be scheduled and held before any decision is published.


I just googled “confederate flag cal poly”.

Wow. Several articles, different times, different incidents.

Go ahead, all you white folks, and tell me again how “not racist” San Luis Obispo is. Talk about delusional. History proves you wrong, as does your local newspaper.


You say “you googled” but when I use a different search engine besides google, it’s a totally different result. Stay in your tunnel with your google! I believe “Google” is being racist and trying to make alot of issues about race when they clearly are not racist issues. Just saying…..


Totally fed up with the everything is racist scenario that the left keeps putting out. The majority of the American people don’t give a SH!!T what color a person is and just want to live their lives in peace and be treated fairly by others. The people today are not responsible for what their ancestors or others did yrs ago. There will always be jerks who are racist and countries alike CHINA good example who treat people like SH!!T for personal gain. You should be a citizen and have ID showing that to vote is racist give me a break, you need a ID to wipe your ass today so get off the flame the fire racism pit and help everyone live a better life. People are generally stupid and cullable on a lot of things and maybe should watch some of the You Tube videos showing dogs taking care of cats and not caring that its not a dog like them.


Smooth Brain thinks cute animal videos are a perfect example of an unbiased society! XD I’m rolling on the floor!! BIG BRAIN ENERGY…

Everyone go to YOU TUBES and make sure to “do your own research”…

Follow the dogs…

follow the lies?


Make them show ID! But don’t ID me for covid vax!!

Everyone in this comment section should just say what we all know they’re thinking… “Dan Dow please publicly execute these TYRANTS and then FILL US with your mighty shaft of JUSTICE!!”

I love the boomer energy on this beautiful cesspool of a community


Black lives have always mattered and been respected in San Luis Obispo. To behave otherwise would get your ass kicked by some big white boys.


The DA has an interest to put me in jail. I want to stay out of jail by any means necessary. Isn’t every case a conflict of interests? This is absurd.


If they feel the clients are so innocent, why all of the smoke and mirrors, while spewing deceit, hate and lies? These attorney’s along with the ones they represent, lack morals, character, integrity and honesty.

The bigotry and racism, along with the threats to the public and businesses will always be their identification. Nothing can change what the various videos prove. Their words and actions should be shown over and over. The divisive rhetoric of the Marxist group blm, the attorney’s and those that support them will come back to haunt them.


This case highlights the bigotry that SLO County tries to hide. But the reaction of SLO County regarding BLM protestors compared to their embrace of the Oath Keepers/Stop the Steal Morons at the Capital Insurrection Riots is disgusting. America has been clear: black people are treated completely different than whites. But I’m sure 99% of the folks who think the BLM protestors should be convicted to “the highest degree the law allows” also believe ex-police officer Derek Chauvin did nothing wrong, & George Floyd “killed himself” by being a drug addict.

Maybe that’s why Bakersfield LOVES the Central Coast: they fit right in. Same people who embraced book burning and sunset laws.


You are correct about one thing; blacks are treated differently than whites: More white people, per capita, are shot by Cops annually (FBI stats, look them up, easy to find).

Oh, BTW, in history, only the left deems book burning to be a good thing.

And last…the majority of Bakersfield people that come to the coast to play, are predominantly Latino. Are you really that racist?

Adam Trask

When I googled it I could not find FBI stats concluding that “More white people, per capita, are shot by Cops annually.” So not sure where your info is coming from—please provide a link.

It’s pretty clear from my research that blacks and other minorities are far more likely to be victims of police shootings—in fact, blacks are three times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a white person.

Now we can debate the reasons for those facts, but, sorry, we can’t really debate the fact that blacks are too often involved with police in a violent way. Far more than white people.

And, as for book burning, I’m pretty sure Hitler was a right wing dictator (fascism is considered right wing while communism is considered left wing) so there’s another fact you got wrong. If you’re going to comment, it’s best to get your facts straight. I mean, we can debate the issues but not the facts.


Here we go again, getting your trusted info from google lol


Maybe that’s why Bakersfield LOVES the Central Coast: they fit right in. Same people who embraced book burning and sunset laws.

Is the most bigoted statement that you will see here.


This kind of thing never ceases to amaze me.. when people try to argue against racism or bigotry or claim that it isn’t as big of a social problem as some make it out to be.. and then casually drop statements like that.


You are free to leave thereby making the central coast a far far better area, although I cannot imagine any place in the USA would welcome such a bigot.


Your words are bigotry. I think all violence and uncivil protest should squashed and kept civil. Were not hundreds of the protesters arrested and being charged in D.C. ?The same is happening right here in slow after the uncivil and violent acts of the insurrection led by Tiana and Mayor Harmon. Are you a denier of the facts?

Yes, the officer was wrong for part of his actions, no questions there. Mr. Floyds’ illegal actions that day and his choices led to the altercation. Are you a denier of these facts as well? His drug use was a factor. All of the facts must be included. Not just the just ones you, Tiana, Mayor Harmon, blm, their attorneys, or the supporter’s want to use to present a certain and unjust narrative.


“happening right here in slow”

How perfect.


Look at that picture…mistreating the flag…what on earth are these young people being taught?…don’t they know that in half the world doing that is a crime?….

If you can’t respect yourself you can’t respect anything….

Id like to ask when are these so called protestors going to apologize to our city?…not one I’m sorry….

Adam Trask

I suppose they have been taught the same things as many in my generation (born in 1948) because I remember plenty of flag burning in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I even remember the images of two successive presidents also burned in effigy.


Under the circumstances I’d say the wording of the email was amazingly restrained (and basically all true). Whacky could also be used for judge Guererro’s clear attempts to circumvent justice for the mob’s standouts. He must have an axe to grind or more likely owes someone. What’s whackier is the word “allegedly” before ‘smashed a car window on a 4 year old boy’. These people have been given every twisted gift twisted lawyers can contrive… Nothing would be sweeter than to see the perps in orange jump suits cleaning trash off the freeway. At least they’d be familiar with the surroundings.


What’s “whacky” here is that we have a paid public servant groveling for donations.

This case should be a slam dunk and if it isn’t, it’s entirely Dan Dow’s fault.

We, the tax payers, are paying Dan Dow a fat cat salary of $329,036 a year. That’s almost five times the median household income in SLO. We pay Dow all that money so he can focus on doing his job and not going around begging for extra cash on the side and become owned by special interests that wish to pervert the course of justice. Yet for some reason, greedy Mr. Dow wants to line his pockets even more. Sadly, these politicians are all the same. It’s always about the money with them.


I’m not quite sure how all that relates (or not) to the appellate court appeal, but as far as your salary beefs, you need to direct your ire to the city council or board of supervisors. They’re the ones who set that amount. While I’m not crazy about some of the legal tactics attorneys use, its important for companies and entities like cities to have experienced legal representation, especially these days cuz everyone wants a piece of the lawsuit pie. In that regard we are unfortunately our own worst enemy. Truthfully it seems a little hefty to me though I realize a city has to try and attract decent professionals for those jobs. Its not easy to become an attorney, their salary or pay should be much higher for a seasoned pro. I’m with you on the special interest deep involvement with politicians but, again, better start contacting the representatives from your party of choice especially in D.C. cuz that’s where the head of the snake is. I’d bet the farm they’ll kick that can as far down the road as possible.