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SLO County DA appeals ruling disqualifying office from prosecuting Arata case

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Posted at 11:45 AM, Jan 12, 2021

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office and the California Attorney General are appealing a judge's ruling that disqualifies the district attorney's office from prosecuting the cases against community activist Tianna Arata and six others.

Arata was arrested following a July 21 Black Lives Matter protest that blocked traffic on Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo. In September, she was charged with 13 misdemeanors that include obstruction of a thoroughfare, false imprisonment, unlawful assembly, and disturbing the peace by loud noise.

A month later, Marcus Montgomery, Joshua Powell, Amman Asfaw, Robert Lastra Jr., Sam Grocott, and Jerad Hill were also charged in connection with the protest.

All of the defendants face misdemeanors, except for Lastra who is charged with felony vandalism. He is accused of throwing a skateboard at a silver BMW, breaking the car's back window.

Arata's attorneys argued that the DA's office should be disqualified from the case because District Attorney Dan Dow had made several statements on social media and at public events that showed implicit bias against the Black Lives Matter movement.

In December, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Matthew Guerrero ruled that there was a conflict of interest on the part of the DA's office based on a fundraising email Dow sent to supporters shortly after charges were filed against Arata. The judge said statements made in the email were an attempt to sway potential jurors and get them to make financial contributions.

The judge's ruling meant that the case would be sent to the California State Attorney General's Office for prosecution.

The notices of appeal, which were filed with the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on Friday, Jan. 8, do not explain the reasoning behind the appeals. Previously, Dow said he disagreed with Judge Guerrero's ruling and claimed there was no evidence of a conflict of interest in the case.