Prosecutor Samer Stephans has ramped up anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated claims about “antifa,” especially the far-right accusation that financier George Soros is secretly funding them. Her case appears to be based on MAGA’s right-wing smear campaign demonizing anti-fascists.
Stephen’s case against anti-fascist counter-protesters at the Jan. 9 pro-Trump Patriot March in the San Diego suburb of Pacific Beach — organized as a defiant gesture of support after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots — was attended by several people. who was in a crowd in Washington three days earlier when she made the announcement, raised eyebrows from lawyers. First, conspiracy cases generally do not depend on evidence involving ordinary speech and conduct, such as simply agreeing to attend an event in response to a social media post, as in this case.
Stefan’s criminal conspiracy complaint lists 68 overt anti-fascist acts, including seemingly innocuous acts such as dressing in black. Others include violent acts such as kicking or spraying victims with a mace, and beating people with sticks and flagpoles or pushing them to the ground.
However, there is no evidence that any of these actions were pre-agreed upon by the parties. Rather, prosecutors allege that the defendants ratified the agreement to commit these acts on social media or simply by their presence at the designated time and place of the counter-protest.
“The defendants are alleged to be affiliated with ANTIFA and are divided into two groups, one from Los Angeles and the other from San Diego,” the charging document states. “ANTIFA is known to use force, fear and violence to advance their own interests and suppress the interests of others. This tactic is called ‘Direct Action’ and is known to mean acts of violence such as assault, battery, assault with deadly weapons, arson, and vandalism. The alleged purpose of this conspiracy was to incite and participate in riots through direct action tactics.”
However, this is not really what “direct action” means. Rather, the phrase describes a set of tactics designed to achieve goals outside of government involvement, including counter-protest rallies as well as the distribution of free pandemic-era aid. Claims that “direct action” indicates violent intent have been ridiculed out of court, most recently in Charlottesville Sines v. Kessler judgment.
Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, said San Diego Union-Tribune that anti-fascists have never been federally charged with conspiracy.
“It is fair to say that this (case) is unique both in terms of prosecution and prosecution,” Hughes wrote in an email. “(The Department of Justice) has flirted with an indictment in the past, meaning they’ve used a possible investigation into that indictment to secure federal search warrants against self-described antifa members, but they’ve ultimately not brought criminal charges.”
Longtime Pacific Beach resident Mike Brown told Carles he was shocked by the violence in his neighborhood and said the pro-Trump “Patriots” are not your average political protestors.
“These guys weren’t just Trump supporters, a lot of them were proud boys — they were wearing the black and yellow,” Brown said. “I don’t know where they were from, but what pissed me off about all of this was that they came into our community and disrupted business, took over the streets, created a lot of tension all afternoon, and it wasn’t even a local movement.
Carless’ investigation revealed that several people who prosecutors identified as victims had ties to white supremacist groups in San Diego County. Two men from San Diego have been identified as attending several MAGA rallies wearing shirts bearing the logo of the American Guard, a Proud Boys side group that recruits from the ranks of racist skinheads. The ADL describes them as “white supremacists.”
The listed victims include other Trump supporters, some of whom prosecutors still have not identified. Local anti-fascists have also identified several other white supremacists who were present at the rally.
Additionally, these extremists were captured in several videos engaging in murderous violence and unprovoked attacks, including one on an African-American man they surrounded in the street.
The “Patriot March” violence erupted when dozens of black-clad anti-fascists arrived near Crystal Pier to protest. As with almost all such confrontations, it is not clear where the violence erupted. The crowd, however, included at least five people who had been at the Capitol three days earlier, and as The Daily Beast’s Kelly Weil notes, reporters that day described a typically tense confrontation involving left- and right-wing activists and police. . One reporter “was hit with a right-wing smoke grenade and documented two Patriot Marchers armed with a knife or BB gun.”
Despite this, Stefan has refused to budge. “When the evidence and facts support criminal charges, we will file them, as we did in July 2020 with a white supremacist group that attacked peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters, and when we charged a white supremacist with murder and a hate crime charge for killing an innocent man .Jewish woman at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in April 2019. We obtained convictions in both cases,” her office said in a statement.
Legal experts pointed out how problematic her approach is. “When you have a situation where you have two organized groups that have both decided to fight each other, and only one side gets charged and the other side starts walking, that’s idiotic,” Patrick Cotter, a former Chicago federal prosecutor, told Carles. . . “To suggest that this is a legitimate prosecution is an insult to the intelligence community. It’s not. It is selective prosecution. “
Stevens has previously sided with the radical right, pandering to their conspiracy. She offered anti-Semitic far-right propaganda about Soros during the 2018 election campaign in which she first won office, Weill reports for The Daily Beast. Her campaign paid for a website that attacks her Democratic opponent, Geneva Jones-Wright, as a Soros pawn who “favors anti-law enforcement candidates over experienced prosecutors in an effort to tip the balance in favor of criminals.”
The website (since taken down but archived) was essentially a scrolling ad: “Public safety in San Diego is under attack” and then claimed: “Billionaire social activist George Soros has brought a war on law enforcement to San Diego, and he’s spending more than $1 million to would support anti-rights candidate Genevieve Jones-Wright for District Attorney,” with a photo of Soros with his hands folded against a backdrop of black-clad anti-fascists at a protest.
In October 2018, when Stephens was confronted about the website by a Times of San Diego reporter at a hate crime vigil organized by San Diego Congregation Beth Israel following the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue days earlier, she turned and walked away, along with her bodyguards. detail blocked all further queries.
“Do you regret creating a website that named George Soros as a funder of your opponent?” the reporter asked her.
After Stephen left, her security information blocked the reporter. But moments later, she was asked again: “Why did you take down this site?”
At that point, he was led to an outdoor porch by a bodyguard who told the reporter, “We’re done. This is a restricted area.”
Stefan’s conviction that nefarious forces were behind the leftist protests never disappeared. In September 2020, the Times of San Diego reported that Stephens said at a media forum that there was a “movement” behind the protests that erupted across the country throughout the summer following the killing of George Floyd, a black man by a Minneapolis police officer. , which went viral after being caught on video.
“We’ve seen where there are peaceful protests and suddenly another group shows up with no license plates, with generators and water, and no good things happen,” Stephan said, adding that nefarious activities are being planned behind the scenes. scenes.”
“Someone talked about undermining the true nature of the protesters, and it continues,” Stephan said. “There are moves you can’t imagine.”
According to Kotter, Stefan’s actions have damaged her case beyond repair — although if she were to succeed, her new strategy of identifying “direct action” with a conspiratorial call to violence could have lasting consequences. He believes that all this has to do with partisan motives.
“It’s about votes,” he said. “It’s about politics. It’s about a prosecutor trying to improve his brand, looking at voters and saying, ‘Who can I prosecute, who’s going to get me the most votes?’ and, ‘If I prosecuted these other guys, would it give me votes or cost me votes?””
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Good referees are now more important than ever. In some states, judges will vote this November. Tune in to The Downballot hear from Justice Richard Bernstein about what it’s been like to be on the Michigan Supreme Court and how his re-election campaign is shaping up.