The San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office charged Arata with 13 misdemeanors on September 2 for events that occurred at a July 21 Black Lives Matter protest she organized. The charges included five counts of false imprisonment, six counts of obstruction of a thoroughfare, one count of unlawful assembly and one count of disturbing the peace by loud noise. (MANDATORY CREDIT: Kyle Calzia / Mustang News)

A San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday, Jan. 19 to delay the proceedings of several ongoing criminal cases related to local Black Lives Matter protestors while the California appellate court decides whether the local district attorney can prosecute the cases.

This setback is the most recent of several complications in the trial of Tianna Arata, whose coordination of a July 21, 2020 march on Highway 101 resulted in her arrest and criminal charges. 

The further delay comes a month after Judge Matthew Guerrero disqualified the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting the case. The development was due primarily to a “clear conflict” resulting from public statements made by District Attorney Dan Dow in which he referred to Black Lives Matter protests as “anarchist” and “whacky.” 

Dow’s appeal, which argues that he should be reinstated to the case, was filed on Jan. 8. There is no reason given for the appeal but Dow has previously publicly disagreed with the ruling and denied any conflict of interest. 

Since the trial has been put on hold until there is a decision on the appeal, attorneys representing Arata and co-defendants Amman Asfaw, Marcus Montgomery and Joshua Powell appeared before Judge Michael Duffy to further deliberate the future of the case.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty to several misdemeanor charges which would each result in a maximum of six months in San Luis Obispo County Jail and a $1000 fine. 

Due to the nature of controversy surrounding Dow’s appeal, deputy attorney general William Frank said that it would be “extremely optimistic” to expect a speedy final decision on Dow’s involvement with the prosecution. 

Without a clear timeline for the case, all parties agreed to Duffy’s proposal of a scheduled progress hearing for March 3.

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