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Protester facing charges asks court to enforce judge's order against DA 

One of seven Black Lives Matter protesters facing criminal charges accused the San Luis Obispo District Attorney's Office of not complying with a superior court judge's order.

"Enforcement and sanctions are necessary to send a message to the prosecuting agencies that the superior court's orders are serious, and they are not to be ignored—the courts must be respected," Attorney Brian Ford said in a press release.

Ford is defending Robert Lastra Jr., the only protester facing a felony in connection with a July 2020 demonstration that blocked traffic on Highway 101. The District Attorney's Office charged Lastra with felony vandalism and a false imprisonment misdemeanor on top of violating the personal liberty of a driver.

In a Dec. 11, 2020, ruling on the case, SLO Superior Court Judge Matthew Guerrero ordered the District Attorney's Office to produce any documentation referring to the case against seven local Black Lives Matter protesters facing criminal charges. Ford said the office has yet to produce the documents and filed a Feb. 8 motion in on behalf of Lastra seeking enforcement of the December ruling.

"Judge Guerrero found clear conflicts of interest in the District Attorney's Office, so he must be firewalled from the case. This is a matter of professional ethics and consitutional law," Ford said in the release.

Guerrero's ruling, made on the grounds of a "clear conflict of interest", disqualified the District Attorney's Office from prosecuting Tianna Arata, Marcus Montgomery, Amman Asfaw, and Joshua Powell, as well as Lastra Jr., Sam Grocott, and Jerad Hill. The cases would default to the California Attorney General's Office, which appealed the order. The ruling also approved the defense's request for any forms referring the cases for prosecution and other documentation of the District Attorney's Office's decision-making process.

Ford said that those documents would disclose whether the prosecution was discriminatory or unlawfully prosecuted racial minorities, Black people, members of Black political organizations, members of any Black Lives Matter organizations, or people affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Feb. 8 motion accuses the District Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's Office of failing to produce the documents and asks the court for any lawful order it deems appropriate.

SLO County Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth told New Times that the California attorney general and the District Attorney's Office have appealed Judge Guerrero's ruling—the separate appeals were filed on Jan. 8.

"I cannot comment specifically on the nature of the allegations within [Brian Ford's] pleadings. As evident from Mr. Ford's pleadings, he himself appears to be uncertain of which entity is responsible for production discovery. This will all be litigated in court. Discovery will be provided in accordance with the law. There is no stated deadline on the order itself," Dobroth said.

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