On Tuesday, Nov.17, Tianna Arata’s attorneys filed a motion to disqualify the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s (DA) Office from continuing to prosecute Arata’s case.
Arata was arrested on the evening of July 21, 2020 and subsequently charged with 13 misdemeanors for coordinating and participating in a Black Lives Matter Protest. Arata is charged with 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.
Arata’s attorneys wrote that she will be unable to have a fair trial in San Luis Obispo due to the conservative political agenda and bias of DA Dan Dow.
Arata’s attorney, Curtis Briggs, also said that he found enough evidence to warrant an investigation into the San Luis Obispo County DA’s Office that would reveal criminal conspiracy of at least two members of the DA’s Office. Criminal conspiracy means that there was an agreement between two or more people to commit a federal crime, according to the Legal Information Institute.
Briggs and co-counsel Patrick Fisher said in the motion that “[Dow’s] conflict of interest has now permeated his entire office and can only be remedied by a recusal of the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office.”
Briggs and Fisher said that Dow’s alignment with right-wing conservative politics have prevented him from applying the law in an even manner, according to the motion.
Briggs and Fisher said in the motion that Dow will not exercise prosecutorial discretion if the case does not align with his personal views or the views of his religious and conservative voter base.
In his Declaration of Counsel, Briggs said that he believes there is probable cause to justify an investigation into the SLO County DA’s Office by the California Attorney General’s Office.
Briggs said in his declaration that after his review of discovery and other documents, he has reason to believe DA Investigator Michael L’Heureux committed multiple felonies including destroying one exculpatory audio recording and submitting multiple false police reports.
An exculpatory piece of evidence is one that increases the likelihood that the defendant is innocent, according to the Legal Information Institute.
The audio recording in question is one where a passenger in a vehicle during the protest tells DA Investigator L’Heureux that he was not in fear of his own safety during the protests, according to the motion. Briggs and Fisher said that this witness has come forward and is upset that he was named a victim in the case because he feels that L’Heureux was trying to convince him he was a victim.
The meeting between the witness and L’Heureux was not recorded because of a “low battery” warning on the audio recorder, according to the motion.
Judge Matthew Guerrero will hear this motion on Dec. 3.
If Guerrero grants the motion, Arata’s case will be sent to the California Attorney General’s Office and the San Luis Obispo County DA’s office will be dismissed from prosecuting the case.