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Tuesday, September 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson sues Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt in federal court

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 11, 2020

Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson made an appearance on Aug. 17 during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Portland Police Association building. He was quickly chased out by a group of protesters.  (Brooke Herbert/The Oregonian)
Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson made an appearance on Aug. 17 during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Portland Police Association building. He was quickly chased out by a group of protesters. (Brooke Herbert/The Oregonian)
By Maxine Bernstein The Oregonian

Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson and supporter Russell Schultz, who both face pending riot charges in Multnomah County, on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against the county’s district attorney, alleging selective prosecution based on political beliefs.

The suit accuses Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt of engaging in unfair, selective prosecution by refusing to dismiss a sole felony riot allegation against both Gibson and Schultz, in light of his new office policy against pursuing that lone charge against people involved in recent Portland protests without an accompanying allegation of specific property damage or use of force.

Gibson and Schultz are among six men who were accused of inciting a riot on May Day 2019 between right-wing Patriot Prayer and left-leaning antifa outside a Northeast Portland pub. Two of the six pleaded guilty and were sentenced in January. Gibson and Schultz have pleaded not guilty and their trials are set for Oct. 26.

Their lawyers, James Buchal, chair of Multnomah County’s Republican Party, and D. Angus Lee, allege that Schmidt and his deputy district attorney are engaged in “bad faith, selective, and retaliatory” prosecution of Gibson and Schultz in violation of the office’s own written policy.

Gibson and Schultz want a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to halt their state prosecution.

The two men’s riot charges stem from an incident on May 1, 2019, outside the Portland bar Cider Riot, which was hosting a gathering of antifa members celebrating demonstrations they held elsewhere in the city that day. Hostilities exploded after about 20 right-wing protesters, including Gibson, arrived outside the watering hole near Northeast Eighth Avenue and Couch Street and confronted antifa members sitting on the patio. Several videos show people using pepper spray, throwing drinks and fighting.

Gibson disputes the single charge of felony riot, his lawyers said. In court papers filed last year, a Portland police detective said Gibson could be seen in a video “taunting” and threatening members of antifa, and later “physically pushing” a woman before she was hit with a baton and knocked unconscious by someone else.

Gibson’s lawyers contend the allegations that Gibson pushed the woman are “completely false,” and said he was trying to defuse a fight between the woman and another man.

Hours after Schmidt held a news conference at the Multnomah County Courthouse on Aug. 11 to announce his new policy on charges stemming from the city’s recent protests, one of Gibson’s lawyers emailed a deputy district attorney, inquiring if the new policy meant Gibson’s 2019 riot charge would also be dismissed.

Lee wrote to the deputy district attorney, requesting that the riot charge against Gibson be dropped, arguing that he didn’t engage in any other alleged assault or property damage.

“We therefore call upon your office to provide equal application of the MCDA policy and dismiss the charge against Mr. Gibson just as you would for any other individual charged only with riot,” Lee wrote.

Deputy District Attorney Brad Kalbaugh, after consulting with Schmdit, responded in an email to Gibson’s lawyers, informing them that the charge would not be dismissed. “My office’s new policy pertaining to riot trials is not retroactive,” Kalbaugh wrote.

Gibson’s lawyers pushed back, noting that nothing in the written policy that Schmidt’s office released said anything about “retroactivity,” yet it does say the policy will apply to “all referred cases arising from the current protests.”

“So, just so I understand,” Lee wrote back by email, “it does apply to cases from the protests that began around the end of May of 2020 through current, but does not apply back further to Mr. Gibson’s case?”

“That’s my understanding,” Kalbaugh responded later, according to a thread of emails obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The lawsuit filed by Gibson and Schultz also references an interview Schmidt did on video with his former Vassar College classmate, a social justice activist and hip hop artist who goes by the name “AWKWORD,” before Schmidt started as district attorney on Aug. 1. The suit points to Schmidt’s interview with his college friend as an indication that he has a predisposition against Gibson and his followers.

Schmidt, through office spokesman Brent Weisberg, has declined comment on Gibson’s case, noting it’s a matter pending before the court. Weisberg also Friday declined comment on the federal lawsuit.

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