Hung jury; mistrial called in Kevin Johnson/Sean Thompson pie case

Judge Robert M. Twiss had harsh words for Sean Thompson in Sacramento County court Monday morning. But he could do little else to the man on trial for pieing former Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson in the face at a charity event last September.

The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on Thompson’s assault charges. The judge called a mistrial.

He was free to fight another day.

Thus culminated a two-week trial and three days of deliberation by a jury of Thompson’s peers. He’d faced charges of felony assault of an elected official and misdemeanor assault on school property. If convicted of the felony, Thompson could have faced a maximum sentence of three years in jail.

But he was free, for now. And it didn’t seem to the court’s liking.

“This has always been a felony. It’s never been a misdemeanor,” said Judge Twiss of the defense’s argument for bringing the felony charge down to a misdemeanor. “The defendant engaged in a crime which is a felony because he assaulted a public official. And he assaulted a public official with the specific intent for retribution or retaliation against a public official’s acts or to prevent a public official from engaging in those acts, or to chill the exercise of that public official’s acts in the future.”

The jury, however, could not form a consensus on the matter.

Over the course of the trial the defense stressed Kevin Johnson’s reaction in the incident, arguing that it was Thompson who was the victim of a violent assault. After Thompson pied the mayor, witnesses described Johnson delivering multiple punches to Thompson’s head, sending him–bloodied and bruised–to the hospital.

That did little to sway the judge’s opinion.

“The defendant did not take responsibility for his actions,” said Twiss. “In the trial, he attacked Kevin Johnson verbally. During the trial he attacked the witnesses called by the people. He impugned their character and their credibility on things which were not in dispute in any way.”

“The defendant’s attitudes towards the offenses is a huge minus,” the judge added. “As I sit here today, he still doesn’t think he did anything wrong. Of some significance, in his press conference, in response to a question from one of the TV reporters, he said he wasn’t sorry. And he said he would do it again.”

“Not only would he do it again, he would do it again twice.”

Thompson is scheduled to appear in court once more on June 8. His attorney Jeffrey Mendelman believes the district attorney will pursue a retrial. If they do, he says the defense will work again to get Kevin Johnson on the stand so that Thompson can face his accuser.

In an unorthodox move, the district attorney did not call Johnson to the stand in the trial that concluded Monday. When defense attorneys sent investigators to serve the former mayor a court summons, he was nowhere to be found in the Sacramento region.

A retrial and a dogged defense team working pro bono could finally land Johnson on the stand.

Mendelman urged community members, should they find the case silly or a waste of time, to contact the district attorney’s office and ask that they not continue prosecuting the case.

“If you have a sense of humor, you can send them a coconut cream pie,” he said.

 

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Dave Kempa
Dave Kempa is the founder and editor of VOICES: River City.