The lawsuit accuses the new District Attorney Mike Schmidt of showing favoritism for antifa protesters charged during recent protests
Attorneys representing Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson and supporter Russell Schultz have filed a lawsuit accusing Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt of “selective and retaliatory” prosecution over charges of inciting a riot stemming from a May 2019 incident outside of a Portland bar.
Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson speaks during a rally against a mask requirement held in Vancouver on June 26, 2020. Photo by Mike Schultz
The lawsuit, filed in Federal Court, cites Schmidt’s Aug. 11 public statement that his office would not prosecute anyone facing charges during more than 100 nights of unrest in the city of Portland, unless the allegations involved “deliberate” property damage, theft, use of force, or threats of force.
“What we’re doing is recognizing that the right to speak and have your voice heard is extremely important,” Schmidt said. “If you’re out there committing violence, you’re damaging property, those cases are going to be prosecuted. If you’re a person who is out there demonstrating and you get caught up in the melee, those are the kinds of cases that we’re talking about.”
In their lawsuit, filed Sept. 11 in federal court, attorneys James Buchal and D. Angus Lee allege that Schmidt’s statement amounts to “bad faith, selective, and retaliatory” prosecution of Gibson and Schultz, based on their political activity and religious beliefs.
While Gibson has repeatedly said his group stands for free speech and does not condone violence, some members of Patriot Prayer have been embroiled in legal issues.
Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, who eventually left Patriot Prayer for the Proud Boys group, was charged with assault in connection with the series of clashes between groups in Portland during the Summer of 2018. Toese was recently re-arrested in Vancouver on allegations he violated the terms of his parole.
Gibson and Schultz were two of six men charged with felony riot following a May 1, 2019 incident during which a group of around 20 protesters fought with antifa members at the Cider Riot bar at Northeast Eighth Avenue and Couch Street.
Police have said Gibson was seen on video taunting antifa members, threatening several people, and “physically pushing” a woman who was later hit by someone else with a baton and knocked unconscious, according to a report in The Oregonian newspaper.
Two of the six men facing charges have pleaded guilty. Gibson and Schultz have pleaded not guilty and are currently scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 26.
In their lawsuit, Lee and Buchal, who is also chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party, allege that media reports have improperly painted Gibson and Patriot Prayer as an extremist right-wing group that sought out violent clashes with others by entering Portland and holding rallies.
“Nearly every article falsely labeled Mr. Gibson with such terms as ‘white supremacist,’ ‘violent, far-right extremist,’ ‘far right organizer,’ or even one of the ‘facist agistators bring(ing) choreographed terror into our community,’” wrote Lee and Buchal.
The pair also noted that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was quoted several times speaking out against Gibson and people “from Vancouver who come down here and spout their venom.”
The attorneys noted that The Oregonian newspaper printed a front-page apology in Oct. 2018 after a columnist noted that a Patriot Prayer event atWashington State University Vancouver included “challenging, inquisitive, respectful conversations,” and “brought something we need more of: talk that leads to increased understanding about opposing thoughts and the people behind them.”
They also noted the backlash among city leaders following revelations that Portland Police Lt. Jeff Niiya had communicated with Gibson, including providing information about where antifa protesters planned to be.
That outcry prompted a full-scale review by the Portland Police Bureau, which eventually cleared Niiya of any wrongdoing and forced an apology from Mayor Wheeler.
Lee and Buchal allege these incidents portray an obvious bias against right-wing groups within the city of Portland, and a policy of attacking groups like Patriot Prayer.
In response to an email inquiring whether Schmidt’s statement of Aug. 11 meant that the charges against Gibson and Schultz would be dismissed, Deputy District Attorney Brad Kalbaugh, who is also named in the lawsuit, responded that the new policy “is not retroactive.”
The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction halting further prosecution of the case against them until the matter is decided.