One of four defendants accused of violating the civil rights of protesters in an alleged November 2020 incident surrounding Black Lives Matter protests reached a plea deal on Tuesday.
Dustin Marion pleaded uncontested to a misdemeanor offense of fighting or inciting a fight in a public place on the fourth day of a preliminary hearing in his case. Charges such as civil rights violations, conspiracy and harassment were dismissed. He was sentenced to 14 days in jail and one year probation, according to an email from Kern County Superior Court spokeswoman Kristin Davis.
Police say Marion and her co-defendants Kristi Stewart, Kevin Connell and Timothy Stevens were part of a conservative group called the 1776 Patriots and confronted pro-BLM activist Erika Harris. Harris, who recorded the allegations in a video, testified at the preliminary hearing on Tuesday that the defendants sprayed bear mace, assaulted her and used racial slurs.
Connell, Stewart and Timothy Stevens each face a felony charge of violating civil rights by causing violent injury and a misdemeanor charge of fighting or contesting a fight in a public place. Connell is also charged with second-degree robbery and possession of tear gas as a weapon by a previously convicted person. Stewart is also charged with conspiracy, two counts of assault and battery.
Marion’s attorney, Kyle Humphrey, said in a phone interview on Tuesday that people were rude during the confrontation captured in video by Harris, but he maintained his client had every right to counter-protest. . Marion accepted the plea deal, Humphrey said, because litigation was expensive.
“He made a wise choice,” Humphrey noted of his client.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel wrote in an email that the plea agreement was reached “in consideration of the evidence presented, in consultation with the alleged victim, and to focus on the most culpable alleged participants.”
Humphrey added that the video was “political theatre” and that the case was generated during a “politically motivated period” in which the media was biased. However, in the video, Marion did not confront Harris, Humphrey added.
“He was right there,” Humphrey said.
Judge Michael Bush ruled on Wednesday that the preliminary hearing would resume on May 25. The hearing has been ongoing since Friday.
You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @idesai98 on Twitter.