Man who pied former Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson will not face jail

The man who introduced former Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson’s face to a coconut cream pie is free.

Activist Sean Thompson pleaded no contest Thursday to a charge of disturbing the peace in relation to the September 2016 incident in which he pied Johnson at a farm-to-fork fundraiser.

Thompson faces no probation or jail time beyond the two days he served following his original arrest the day of the altercation.

“I’m really pleased,” said attorney Claire White of Vallejo law firm Morton & Russo, which represented Thompson pro bono. “Ultimately, this is the offer that we made to the district attorney on day one of this whole thing.”

At a fundraising event in September 2016, Thompson reportedly hit Kevin Johnson in the face with a coconut cream pie, after which eyewitnesses say then-mayor Johnson punched the activist repeatedly in the head (photos here).

Johnson did not face any charges, but the Sacramento County District Attorney brought multiple against Thompson–including felony assault of an elected official, which carried a maximum three-year jail sentence.

A jury was unable to reach a verdict on the original charges, resulting in a mistrial last May. The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office then decided to try Thompson again on misdemeanor assault charges.

But the prosecution appeared to change its position after the defense managed to find and serve court summonses to the former mayor and his wife, Michelle Rhee. That meant the Sacramento power couple would likely have to take the stand at Thompson’s second trial.

It also meant that Johnson and Rhee would be subject to a potentially invasive discovery process in the trial. The defense promised they would work to make public–as part of this phase–an old, 23-page Sacramento police report naming Johnson as a suspect of assault on minors.

In the end, the district attorney agreed to the defense’s requested plea from 2016.

“At this point in time, we are faced with a victim who does not wish to pursue the case further and a defendant who is willing to accept some measure of responsibility for his actions,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said in a prepared statement. “The plea agreement provides finality to the incident and allows all parties to move forward with their lives.”

“We felt that the jail time [Thompson] served and the severe beating he took were sufficient penalty,” said White.

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