Validity of SLO County judge’s ruling headed to Supreme Court

October 3, 2022

By KAREN VELIE

The Court of Appeal declined to rehear a dispute over the disqualification of the entire San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office in a case against seven Black Lives Matter defendants, prompting state and local prosecutors to seek redress from the California Supreme Court.

During a July 21, 2020 march, Tianna Arata allegedly led approximately 300 protesters onto Highway 101, blocking all lanes in both directions for nearly an hour. SLO County prosecutors charged Arata with 13 misdemeanors, and also filed charges against Elias Bautista, Jerad Hill, Sam Grocott, Robert Lastra, Marcus Montgomery, Joshua Powell and Amman Asfaw.

Defense attorneys argued that SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow’s personal political opinions jeopardized the defendants’ rights to a fair trial, and that local prosecutors should be replaced by the California Office of the Attorney General, a request Judge Matt Guerrero approved.

In early Jan. 2021, the California Attorney General’s Office and the SLO County District Attorney’s Office appealed Guerrero’s ruling to recuse the entire district attorney’s office because it “fell well short of the statutory standard.” They lost that attempt and asked for a rehearing based on factual errors in the ruling.

The appellate court denied the request for a rehearing while ordering the opinion published in the official record, making it more likely the California Supreme Court will hear the appeal.

The appellate court determined SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow showed bias not only through an email his wife sent, but by affiliating with people critical of the BLM movement.

Both state and local prosecutors have voiced concerns that this case could create a slippery slope, with defendants asking to recuse prosecutors based on their political leanings. In addition, by publishing the order, the case could lead to a lower statutory standard for disqualifying a prosecutor.

“The legal standard for recusal of a prosecutor has always been a high standard because of the chaos that will result from making it a low standard,” Dow said. Prosecutors in every county across California would be recused routinely and it would derail the current criminal and victim justice system if defendants are allowed to ‘shop’ for a prosecutor that shares their unique views on a particular topic.”

The California Supreme Court is likely to decide whether or not it will hear the case in the next two months.


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ryguy

I think if I shut down the 101 for hours because I can’t water my yard on a Monday I would be arrested also


GreatGuy

Pardon me for saying so, but protesting for not being able to water a lawn on Mondays is not the same as protesting because police are murdering people. More than a slight difference. The fact that some people in our community still don’t make a differentiation between the two is further reason to desperately and urgently demand change.


obispan

If Tiana Arata’s thugs are allowed to behave lawlessly without legal consequence doesn’t the opposing side, equally extremist, have the right to do the same? Just sayin’…


ryguy

I don’t remember anyone on “the other side” shutting down the 101 or rioting in the streets


GreatGuy

Referring to any of the defendants as “thugs“ is not an accurate characterization of them. And in case you didn’t know, that term “thugs“, is considered by many people to be a racist remark when used in certain discussions, like this one.


Puscifer

He knows.


Jorge Estrada

The word smiths will not prevail on this one, the facts were witnessed and recorded. Equality should be good and for everyone.


Robert1

Great job DA Dow, don’t let up!


obispan

I am not a Republican. I am not a Christian. But I am 100% with DA Dan Dow. People’s rights must be respected and protected.


cooperdog

It galls me to think of the resources being consumed so this spoiled, whining brat could have her 15 minutes of fame.


Adam Trask

Better button up your overalls Dan Dow, because I expect a scathing opinion from the Cali SC about your lack of professionalism and ongoing flirtation with white supremacist influences in this county.


ryguy

This comment is conjecture and inflammatory


Ben Daho

Wasn’t it Trump that insisted a judge be recused because he was Mexican?