A Multnomah County circuit judge threw out charges brought against Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson and Russell Schultz for their involvement in a 2019 street brawl in Portland.
“The state is trying to convict Mr. Schultz for being present at an incident that violence occurred, and they cannot do so,” Judge Benjamin Souede said while dismissing the charges, according to reporting from Willamette Week.
“I am somewhat bewildered that the state has driven this case to this point,” Soeude said, according to Willamette Week.
According to Souede, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office failed to prove that Gibson and Russell Schultz had engaged in “tumultuous and violent conduct.”
Prosecutors slapped Schultz, Gibson and an associate of theirs named Mackenzie Lewis with felony riot charges in 2019, accusing them of “taunting and physically threatening” leftist activists at the bar Cider Riot in Northeast Portland, Willamette Week and The Columbian reported.
The trio was charged alongside three others, two of whom pleaded guilty while the third was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned for assault unrelated to the 2019 brawl, Willamette Week reported.
Defense attorney Brian Schmonsees said the prosecution did not offer any evidence to establish that Schultz engaged in violent acts that day, according to The Columbian.
Referring to videos the prosecution presented as evidence, Schmonsees said that Schultz was standing on the sidelines when far-right and Antifa activists clashed in a melee at the bar.
Schultz even asked people in his group to leave, Shmonsees said, the newspaper reported.
However, according to The Columbian, videos of Gibson presented by prosecutors showed him taunting far-left activists, asking them to do “something,” and wiping spit on a patron at the bar after someone spat on him.
“The record is overwhelming, and I suggest indisputable, that Mr. Gibson spoke obnoxiously to the crowd,” Souede said, according to the newspaper.
“He was provocative, he was taunting, he was acting like a troll,” Souede said.
Yet, Gibson’s activity was still speech, Souede said, adding that under Oregon law, one cannot consider speech when judging on riot charges.
Souede said that should prosecutors have charged Gibson with a harassment charge, the charges could have withstood a motion for acquittal.
“If this defendant could be convicted in this case, there would be no protection for protesters in Oregon on other occasions,” Souede said, referring to the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots that shook Portland.
Lewis, however, was not acquitted of the charges since a video brought by the prosecution showed Lewis pushing someone and tossing an empty can of mace at a group of people during the brawl, The Columbian reported.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.