Joey Gibson, the leader of the conservative Patriot Prayer group, sued Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt on Friday, alleging unequal treatment under Schmidt’s recent policy change.
Gibson was one of six people charged with inciting a riot on May 1, 2019, after his group and people linked to the far-left Antifa group clashed. Video footage showed him pushing a woman who was with Antifa, police said in an affidavit (pdf). He has pleaded not guilty.
Schmidt, who entered office last month, announced shortly thereafter that prosecutors working under him would likely not pursue some charges against people arrested during the ongoing unrest in Portland.
The charges cited included riot.
Gibson’s lawyers are arguing that their client should have his charge dropped in light of the policy change.
The lawsuit accuses prosecutors of going after the Patriot Prayer leader and another man, Russell Schultz, for protesting against Antifa and the local government’s alleged failure “to hold Antifa accountable for criminal conduct.”
“While Defendants willingly allow a group known as Antifa to engage in mass criminal conduct to the detriment of the City of Portland, and intimidate the public and public officials, Defendants continue to prosecute Plaintiffs for violation of the riot statue” despite there being no evidence of a violation, the lawsuit states.
Additionally, prosecutors “have enacted a formal policy of presumptive dismissal of riot charges arising out of protest activity but have selectively refused to apply that formal written policy to Plaintiff’s charges,” which amounts to “selective prosecution,” Gibson’s lawyers added.
A spokesman for the district attorney’s office told The Epoch Times via email Saturday that the office does not comment on pending litigation.
The case against Gibson remains pending before the court, the spokesman said.
Gibson directed supporters to a page on one of his lawyer’s websites asking for donations for his legal defense. The page says Gibson is in danger of having to face “an extraordinarily-hostile Portland jury despite a clear statement that his personal conduct was in complete conformity with the First Amendment, and there was only ‘scant’ evidence that he authorized, directed or ratified any unlawful or tortious acts.”
Two men associated with Patriot Prayer have entered pleas and were sentenced.
Christopher Ryan Ponte, 38, pleaded no contest to felony riot and was sentenced to 10 days in jail, three years of probation, and banned from protests. Matthew Demetrius Cooper, 24, pleaded guilty to felony riot and was given three years probation and banned from protests.
Schmidt’s new policy has already had far-reaching repercussions.
Oregon state troopers withdrew from Portland two days after the announcement, citing the policy change. Troopers returned about two weeks later following the fatal shooting of a Patriot Prayer supporter but were deputized so prosecution of wrongdoers could be handled on a federal level.
Law enforcement officials from adjacent counties, urged to send personnel to help Portland police and state troopers deal with the ongoing unrest, declined, also citing Schmidt’s policy.
“The only way to make Portland safe again, is to support a policy that holds offenders accountable for their destruction and violence,” Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said in a statement.
“That will require the DA to charge offenders appropriately and a decision by the Multnomah County Presiding Judge not to allow offenders released on their own recognizance, and instead require bail with conditions.”
Because of the near-nonstop riots in Portland since May, FBI agents started investigating those responsible last month. Those investigations have led to federal prosecutors charging 10 with civil disorder, a charge that carries up to five years in prison upon conviction.
Schmidt’s office filed charges against 13 for riot-related crimes this week.