The trial for Sean Thompson, the Sacramento man who last September introduced then-mayor Kevin Johnson’s face to a coconut cream pie in an act of political theater, begins today after a string of courtroom delays.
Thompson faces a felony charge of assaulting an elected official and a misdemeanor charge of assault on school property for pieing the mayor on Sept. 21 at an Oak Park charter school fundraising event.
All said, the trial should take about two weeks to go down. Here’s what we’re keeping an eye on:
Are you there Kevin? It’s me, justice.
Kevin Johnson is hiding.
At least that’s how it looks to Thompson’s attorney Claire White of Vallejo law firm Morton & Russo. Believing her client has the right to face his accuser, White issued a subpoena last month for Johnson to take the stand. But despite repeated efforts to serve the man, no one in Sacramento seems to know where he’s lurking.
We should find out today if the judge will force Johnson onto the stand, in the same way 13 Sacramento Police Department officers had to make the schlep to court last Thursday after a judge issued bench warrants for them when they (and three more colleagues) ignored subpoenas the week before.
On pie, homelessness, arenas and sexual misconduct charges
Thompson has said he pied Johnson to bring to light his inaction and ineffectiveness on Sacramento’s rising homelessness problem. Instead, he believes the mayor focused his efforts on a new downtown arena that put taxpayers on the line for $255 million.
The district attorney has doubled down on a charge against Thompson of felony assault against an elected official, which in California could mean up to three years in prison. If they hold firm on this (and it seems they will), the defense is prepared to make shit weird, transforming the case into a damning examination of Kevin Johnson and his tenure as Sacramento’s mayor.
White hasn’t just subpoenaed the former mayor. She’s also calling his wife Michelle Rhee, 18 police officers and community homeless advocates to the stand. On-record discussion between the judge and White last week hinted that Sacramento city council members also made the list.
If the case is to proceed, expect the defense to dive into Johnson’s history with homelessness and sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him over the years. As Johnson punched Thompson repeatedly in the face after being pied, the defense also seems willing to explore any history of violence on the former mayor’s part.
Will this even happen?
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution and California law affirm Sean Thompson’s right to a speedy trial. So far, it’s been anything but.
The Sacramento County courts have had a hell of a time trying to find the time and space for a two-week pieing trial. If the county can’t move forward today, Thompson could hypothetically have his charges dropped.
Criminal courts throughout the nation are deeply stressed, and cases face delays on a regular basis. Consider that with the fact that only three percent of criminal cases go to trial in the United States, and you can see how a two-week trial with a subpoena list a mile long might throw a wrench in the system.
I expect to see this one proceed—but given the wild ride so far, who knows?