Vancouver attorney Angus Lee told Clark County Today that Gibson was the victim of ‘political persecution’
A Multnomah County judge acquitted Camas resident Joey Gibson and one other defendant Tuesday, stating that Oregon prosecutors failed to provide sufficient evidence that either man had committed the crime of riot during a brawl outside a Portland bar in 2019.
Circuit Judge Benjamin Souede abruptly ended the long-anticipated trial against the 38-year-old Gibson and 52-year-old Russell Schultz. In his finding, Souede determined that no reasonable juror could convict Gibson and Schultz based on the evidence presented by the prosecution.
“I think the judge made the only appropriate legal decision,’’ Vancouver attorney Angus Lee told Clark County Today Tuesday. Lee served as the lead trial counsel for the defendants in the case. “With that said, sometimes it requires courage to make the right legal decision. The judge displayed both courage and a key understanding of the law, as well as the record and facts in this case.’’
The judge elected not to acquit a third defendant in the case, 32-year-old Mackenzie Lewis, who was being tried jointly with Gibson and Schultz. Souede stated that there was stronger evidence in the case against Lewis.
“I am somewhat bewildered that the state has driven the case to this point,” said Souede, as reported by OregonLive.com. “As an institution, the district attorney’s office’s decision to push this case to trial is surprising, given the state of the evidence.”
Afterward, outside the courtroom, Gibson commented to OregonLive.com.
“Thank God,” Gibson said. “I’m thankful for the decision that the judge made and the judge seemed insulted that (prosecutors) brought this in.”
Lee told Clark County Today that the prosecution’s promise to bring additional evidence to trial never materialized.
“The prosecution had stated previously in state court and federal court that they were going to introduce evidence in the form of witness testimony that both Joey Gibson and Russell Schultz engaged in violent conduct,’’ Lee told Clark County Today. “However, none of the numerous video recordings of the event showed violent conduct by Mr. Gibson. When witnesses came to testify by trial, none of them testified that Mr. Gibson did anything beyond speaking and standing on a public sidewalk while live streaming on Facebook.
“The prosecution failed, not because the prosecutors were not seasoned or experienced, but because Mr. Gibson is and always was completely innocent,’’ Lee stated. “The only reason that remains for why they prosecuted a totally innocent man is political persecution. Mr. Gibson was prosecuted by the office of (Multnomah County District Attorney) Mike Schmidt because Mr. Gibson exercised his First Amendment right to express his views that Antifa is a group of violent and hateful people that are dangerous for the city of Portland.’’
Lee said that Gibson warned Portland officials about Antifa several years ago and those officials did not listen to his warning.
“Frankly, when in 2019 Mr. Gibson announced to the world on live stream that Anitifa was a violent and hateful group, the city of Portland would have done well to listen to him,’’ Lee stated. “He was warning them in 2019 to pay attention to Antifa and telling them that Antifa would be very harmful to the public safety in the city of Portland. The last two years have made it abundantly clear that Mr. Gibson was correct.’’
The judge’s decision came on just the second day of the trial, which began on Monday. The jury watched live streamed videos Tuesday morning of the incident, which took place on May 1, 2019. The confrontation took place outside the Cider Riot bar in Northeast Portland.
According to OregonLive.com, Judge Souede noted a 1997 Oregon Supreme Court decision that “does not allow a defendant’s speech to be considered when determining whether the crime of riot occured. Instead, the crime must be predicated by violent or threatening physical activity.’’
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