Man accused of defacing Colorado Jewish center is linked to white nationalists

Posted at 9:34 PM, Jul 18, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California authorities announced charges Tuesday against two people after a violent melee during a white nationalist group's rally outside the California state Capitol building last year, a number that falls far short of the 101 people the California Highway Patrol recommended charging.

The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office said other arrests are expected, but prosecutors rejected numerous other charges the highway patrol sought after its eight-month investigation.

Investigators could not learn the identities of those committing the most violent offenses, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said in a statement, and the district attorney's office is not pursuing many of the more minor recommended charges.

Fourteen people had stab wounds, cuts and bruises after more than 300 counter-protesters, many of them wearing masks, confronted about 30 members of the Traditionalist Worker Party in June 2016. Two of the injured people survived critical stabbings.

A KCRA-TV reporter and his cameraman were confronted by protesters who shouted "no cameras" as they grabbed at their equipment.

The stabbings and the assault on the TV crew were clearly felonies, but no charges can be filed because investigators never learned who was responsible, Grippi said.

The two arrests were on charges of assault with a deadly weapon or using force likely to cause great bodily harm and participating in a riot.

William Planer, who prosecutors say was supporting the Traditionalist Worker Party, was arrested in Colorado and is awaiting extradition to California.

Porfirio Paz, who prosecutors believe to be a counter-protester, was arrested in Southern California and is set to be arraigned July 24.

Prosecutors did not provide other identifying details and did not know if the men had retained attorneys. Representatives from both sides did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Police in Colorado Springs, Colorado, are holding a William Scott Planer, 34, for extradition to California, department spokesman Lt. Howard Black said.

Planer was arrested July 12 on suspicion of committing bias-motivated crimes alleging that he pasted black stickers reading "Fight Terror, Nuke Israel" on the front door of a Colorado Springs Jewish center, Black said. The doors were defaced about 1:30 a.m. June 10, and detectives identified Planer from a surveillance tape, he said.

The highway patrol had recommended 68 felony charges and 514 misdemeanors. But prosecutors rejected dozens of lower-level crimes, including 85 counts of unlawful assembly, 55 counts of conspiracy to unlawfully assemble and 32 counts related to the possession of illegal signs and banners.

It took prosecutors five months to review the agency's 2,000-page report and hours of related video.

Videos posted on social media showed participants throwing stones toward a man who was holding a stick as he was protected by police officers wearing riot gear. Other videos showed officers on horseback dispersing protesters, some with their faces covered.

The highway patrol said its investigation was made more difficult because many of the counter-demonstrators were masked. Many participants were difficult to locate or refused to cooperate, the agency said.

The Traditionalist Worker Party was formed in 2015 as the political wing of the white nationalist Traditionalist Youth Network, according to The Southern Poverty Law Center, which studies extremist groups across the nation.

"We are unapologetically nationalists, fighting to secure the existence of our people and a future for White children," the party says on its website.

The group had a permit for the Capitol rally, while counter-protesters did not have a permit and were there to prevent the white nationalists' rally, the highway patrol said.

Several uninvolved observers criticized police for being too slow to break up the fighting.