ANDY NGO REPORTS: So Cal Antifa members all sentenced to prison or jail over 2021 San Diego attack

A San Diego County judge has sentenced members of So Cal Antifa to prison and jail terms after they were convicted of carrying out a violent conspiracy

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Andy Ngo and Eva Knott San Diego CA
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This is part of a series reporting on the So Cal Antifa cell.
 

Eight convicted rioters were sentenced to varying prison and jail terms last week for their role in a So Cal Antifa attack in southern California in 2021.

The sentencing in San Diego Superior Court on June 28 brought the conclusion to more than three years of investigations, a secret indictment, plea deals, and a dramatic trial. This marks the first time in U.S. history that prosecutors have broken up an Antifa cell with a string of multiple convictions. In fact, all 12 defendants related to the case were convicted.


All 12 Antifa extremists charged in the case were convicted of felonies
 

Jurors heard evidence during a month-long trial spanning from April to May in which prosecutors alleged that Jeremy Jonathan White, 41 (b. Oct. 7, 1982), and Brian Cortez Lightfoot Jr., 27 (b. Sept. 30, 1996), were part of a violent So Cal Antifa conspiracy to riot in the community of Pacific Beach in January 2021. The last two defendants who went to trial were the only charged So Cal Antifa members who did not plead guilty beforehand.

Both White and Lightfoot were found guilty of felony conspiracy to riot. Lightfoot was additionally found guilty of five charges of unlawful use of teargas. He was acquitted of one assault charge, and the jury deadlocked on nine assault charges. 

White was sentenced to two years custody in state prison. He submitted a statement to the court standing by his actions and comparing himself to slavery abolitionist John Brown as well as anti-apartheid figure Nelson Mandela.

"I was asked to write a conciliatory statement about the so-called victims in this trial," White wrote. "Fascism is here, mask off with a gun and a badge, criminalizing anti-fascists to clear the playing field of any opposition."

Jeremy Jonathan White is a So Cal Antifa member who wore distinctive riot gear to the Pacific Beach attack. Left photo by Ken Stone/Times of San Diego

Judge Daniel Goldstein later responded: "Mr. Briggs, your client is unapologetic and he labels people without knowing them." The judge chastised White for suppressing the First Amendment rights of others through the use of violence. The judge said he would have found White guilty of the assault charge of which he was acquitted by the jury.


Judge Daniel Goldstein (pictured in 2023) has presided over the So Cal Antifa case for years. Photo: Eva Knott

"I have no doubt the Trump supporters were offensive to the defendants that day, but that is the nature of freedom of speech," Goldstein said. "Antifa could have assembled and protested and stood across the street and called them white supremacists, but you cannot use force to suppress others' freedom of speech."

The judge said he was disturbed that the So Cal Antifa group, led by White, patrolled the boardwalk and questioned potential targets to determine if they should be assaulted or not.


Prosecutors say Jeremy White bear maced a service dog and his walker on the beach. Photo: Ken Stone/Times of San Diego
 

Judge Goldstein had originally expressed doubt if prosecutors could show that Antifa organize as a militant group but stated after seeing the evidence, "I don't have any question that this organization exists."

White, who declared himself trans "non-binary" just days before the sentencing date, was removed from the courtroom by deputies and immediately taken into custody. This is not the first time he made surprising new claims about himself.

Jeremy White stood by his violent actions and was taken into custody after being sentenced to two years in state prison. Photo: Eva Knott

Just before his trial began, White claimed to be "not guilty by reason of insanity." However, no "insanity" evidence was shown to the jury, and that "insanity" plea was withdrawn after the jury's verdict was announced.

Jeremy White, who was armed with weapons at the riot, announced he was trans non-binary days before sentencing

In contrast to White's lack of remorse, Lightfoot, who formerly called himself "Antifa Commander" and was accused of being a "leader" in the violence, admitted wrongdoing when he took the witness box during trial.  Lightfoot admitted to the court that he hurt people who didn't deserve it and that he had plans to reform himself and become a fireman. 

The judge noted on the record: "Unlike White, you expressed remorse—whether it is feigned or not." He continued: "Unlike White, you are going to school to become a firefighter, instead of just saying you are a firefighter." The judge had stated in prior court hearings that rioter White declared himself to be a "medic" without medical training.

Prosecutors presented evidence showing Brian Lightfoot was the 'ringleader' of the attacks

The judge sentenced Lightfoot to two years at a California "fire camp" state prison, a fire fighting program for select inmates.

At trial, the jurors deadlocked on nine assault-related charges against Lightfoot. The San Diego District Attorney's Office told The Post Millennial that the whole case is now closed and they will not pursue any of Lightfoot's mistrial charges. 

These last two convictions, at trial, brought to a total of 12-for-12 convictions for members of So Cal Antifa, a regional group of Antifa cells from Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

Reporting on this case has been challenging because one left-wing defense attorney tried to prevent our reporter Eva Knott access to this particular case. Last year, Lightfoot's attorney John Hamasaki tried and failed to get TPM's Knott banned from photographing and reporting on this case. The judge denied his motion.

Brian Lightfoot's attorney John Hamasaki has deleted thousands of tweets like this one since running and failing to become San Francisco's district attorney

Background

On Jan. 9, 2021, cars full of black-clad So Cal Antifa members traveled more than a hundred miles to Pacific Beach armed with weapons and protective gear to confront Trump supporters who had organized a rally. The "direct action" quickly devolved into a riot as masked Antifa members bear-maced and assaulted their targets, including unaware passersby who were on the boardwalk. A dog wearing a "service dog" vest and his walker were among those bear-maced. Prosecutors identified 18 victims in total, these included a woman and teenage schoolboys.

A female victim was beaten to the ground at the Antifa riot. Photo: Ken Stone/Times of San Diego

Eleven suspects, about half from Los Angeles County, were indicted in 2022 by a secret grand jury on dozens of felonies including conspiracy to riot, assault and other violent crimes. Alexander Akridge-Jacobs, 33, Jesse Merel Cannon, 33, Joseph Austin Gaskins, 23, Christian Martinez, 25, Samuel Howard "Ruchelle" Ogden, 26, Bryan Rivera, 22, Faraz Martin Talab, 29, Erich Louis Yach, 40, and Luis Francisco Mora, 32, all pleaded guilty before trial.


San Diego police detectives identified the Antifa assailants beating a man in this photo as Christian Martinez, Bryan Rivera, Martin Talab, and Luis Mora. Photo: John Cocozza

Minor schoolboys were among the victims in the So Cal Antifa riot. Photo: Ken Stone/Times of San Diego

A 12th co-conspirator, Jonah Abraham Bigel, pleaded guilty in 2021 to assault with a deadly weapon after using a baseball bat during the riot. He was given a suspended prison sentence, which is sometimes offered for cooperation in an investigation. He was not present at trial nor sentencing.


Jonah Abraham Bigel, seen with a baseball bat and sign during the Antifa riot, pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon

Sentencing

Judge Goldstein sentenced eight of the co-defendants to various terms in San Diego County jail, rejecting their pleas for no jail time.

Alexander Akridge-Jacobs, 33 (b. Sept. 10, 1990), of Fallbrook, Calif., was sentenced to nine months in county jail, with some time suspended. He pleaded guilty in November 2022 to felony conspiracy to riot and felony assault. His local jail page shows he is expected to be released in November of this year. 

So Cal Antifa member Alexander Akridge-Jacobs often hid his face in court. Center and right photo: Eva Knott

Joseph Austin Gaskins, 23 (b. Sept. 26, 2000), was given a one-year jail sentence plus two years probation. Gaskins pleaded guilty in November 2022 to felony assault likely to produce great bodily injury using a skateboard. He admitted to assaulting a victim with co-defendants Christian Martinez and Faraz Talab. Gaskins also pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon on a San Diego police officer at a BLM riot in 2020. His local jail page shows he is expected to be released from custody on Dec. 26 of this year.

Serial Antifa rioter Joseph Austin Gaskins was sentenced to a year in county jail. Photos: Eva Knott

San Diego Police Officer Robert Bustamante delivered an impact statement before the sentencing of Gaskins. "I could have shot you, I chose not to, I chose not to use lethal force, and you struck me about five more times," the officer said. "The TBI [traumatic brain injury] effects were immediate."

Judge Goldstein spoke to Gaskins before he announced his sentence: "Something terrible happens in Minnesota [George Floyd] and people take carte blanche to attack officers in San Diego. People were consumed by hate and violence for political thought."

Christian Martinez, 25 (b. Oct. 17, 1998), was sentenced to six months in county jail plus probation. Martinez pleaded guilty in November 2022 to felony conspiracy to riot and felony assault. He admitted to working with other So Cal Antifa members to assault a victim using an unopened drink can as a weapon. His local jail page shows that he is expected to be released from custody in September of this year.


So Cal Antifa member Christian Martinez has been active in many violent direct actions in southern California

Investigators captured a number of private messages Martinez sent to his co-conspirators on social media. He used the name "Satanic Hispanic" as one of his aliases.

"Guys, this is 2021. We do the beating now," Martinez wrote in one message. "Let's staple the USA flag on their chest if they love Amerikkka [sic] so much and carve out our names on their stomachs."

Violent trantifa activist Samuel Howard "Ruchelle" Ogden, 26 (b. Dec. 5, 1997), of Chula Vista, Calif., was given a one-year county jail sentence plus two years probation. Ogden, a 6 feet 5 inches tall male who identifies as a woman, had pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to riot and felony assault. He admitted to being armed with a stick that he gave to Lightfoot to help beat a woman.

During years of pre-trial motions, Ogden took significant steps to disguise himself in court by wearing breast prosthetics and masks.

Violent trans So Cal Antifa member Samuel Howard 'Ruchelle' Ogden hid his face in court until the day of sentencing. Photos: Eva Knott

Prosecutors reminded the judge how Ogden helped "de-arrest" one Antifa comrade who had been seized by police. When Ogden's home was searched during the investigation, police found his apartment filled with Antifa propaganda and literature. His jail booking shows Ogden is expected to be released from custody on Dec. 27 of this year. 


Trantifa militant Samuel "Ruchelle" Ogden used a stick to menace people at the riot in January 2021 before later giving it to Brian Lightfoot to beat a woman

Ogden spoke softly to the judge about taking responsibility for his role in the attacks that he had previously lied about. 

The judge spoke to Ogden's attorney: "Though she [Ogden] was soft-spoken today, on the day of the riot, Jan. 9, your client was tall with a long staff and confronted law enforcement and was at every flash point, was part of the chasing of victims who were running away. These are all violent acts."

Samuel Howard "Ruchelle" Ogden and his attorney were stunned he was sentenced to jail time. Photo: Eva Knott

Bryan Rivera, 22 (b. July 18, 2001), of Long Beach, was sentenced to 180 days in county jail and two years probation. He pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to riot and felony assault in November 2022. His jail page shows that he is expected to be released from custody in September.

Rivera's defense asked the judge for a light sentence, citing the client's occupation as an Amazon delivery driver and attendance at a community college.


Bryan Rivera was emotional in court as he learned he was sentenced to six months in county jail. Photo: Eva Knott

Judge Goldstein didn't buy it: "I am not going to give you a pass because you are going to a gym, and you are going to community college, and you work for Amazon. Your conduct on Jan. 9 is abhorrent. There is no excuse for retaliating against people who don't think like you."

Faraz Martin Talab, 29 (b. Aug. 12, 1994), of Los Angeles, was given a one-year jail sentence plus two years probation. He had pleaded guilty in October 2023 to felony conspiracy to riot and felony assault. His local jail page shows that he is expected to be released from custody on Dec. 26.


So Cal Antifa member Faraz Martin Talab admitted to committing felony assault in a conspiracy with others

Investigators discovered that Talab offered "training" for his comrades at a local park the day before the Pacific Beach riot. He described his cell as "Antifa" in uncovered private messages.

Other Sentences

Trantifa militant Erich Louis "Nikki" Yach, 40 (b. Jan. 7, 1984) was detained since December 2021 after being arrested at the Mexican border in southern California with open felony cases. 


So Cal Antifa member Erich L. Yach requested to be housed with women in prison despite having a prior conviction for domestic violence against a woman

Yach, a 6 feet 4 inches tall male who identifies as a woman, was already a felon with a prior felony domestic abuse conviction before he participated in the So Cal Antifa attack. In the Antifa case, Yach pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to riot, felony assault and felony unlawful use of teargas. He also admitted that he was out on bail when he committed the new Antifa riot felonies. He was sentenced to four years and eight months in state prison given his long criminal history.


So Cal Antifa member Erich L. Yach, who identifies as a woman, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for multiple violent felonies. Right photo: Ken Stone/Times of San Diego

Yach is eligible for parole in October 2024. He has repeatedly asked to be transferred to a women's prison during his time in prison despite having male genitalia and a history of violence against women.   

Jesse Merel Cannon, 34 (b. June 8, 1990), was already sentenced in January this year to five years in prison after pleading guilty to felony conspiracy to riot and two felony assault charges.


Violent So Cal Antifa member Jesse Merel Cannon is serving five years in prison for felony convictions spanning multiple cases

His sentence was compounded by pleading guilty to a felony assault charge for a second unrelated case. A third criminal case was dismissed as part of the comprehensive plea deal. Cannon is eligible for parole in December 2024. 

Luis Francisco Mora, 32 (b. Aug. 3, 1991), made a last-minute plea deal at the start of the trial in April and was sentenced to two years and eight months in state prison. He pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to riot and felony assault on a woman. He was transferred into state custody in May. Prison records state he will be eligible for parole in August 2025.


Luis Francisco Mora was sentenced to 32 months in state prison

Jurors were photographed at trial?

Following the conclusion of the trial, TPM can report that the jury may have been photographed for doxing purposes by Antifa members associated with the defendants.

According to newly reviewed court documents, the jurors discreetly alerted the bailiff, who then told the judge that "they believe a party with the defendants was photographing the jurors as they left [the] building."

White and Lightfoot were free to roam the hallways outside the courtrooms during trial breaks because they were released on their own recognizance. This put them and their Antifa supporters in some of the same common areas as the jurors. Prosecutor Makenzie Harvey told the judge about alleged juror intimidation.

"We heard from these women, that they felt intimidated, uneasy, and they couldn't understand [why] their orders had been so clear to stay away, why these defendants didn't move away," Harvey said.

After the verdict was reached, the judge sealed the jury roll by court order to protect the jurors' identities. 


Prosecutors showed jurors symbols used by Antifa members. Photo: Eva Knott

Even before trial, the case was marred by instances of "doxing" against the victims by Antifa. In December 2021, another judge granted a protective order for the prosecution after it emerged that violent co-defendant Jesse Merel Cannon had or has an Antifa girlfriend in the San Diego Public Defender's office who had access to information about victims and witnesses in the case. Through various Antifa social media accounts, the names and information of the assault victims were posted publicly as retribution for their cooperation in the felony case.


Leftist journalist Sean Beckner-Carmitchel ('acatwithnews') and Portland Antifa member Robert Sneed were revealed to be unindicted co-conspirators at the trial. Photo: Ken Stone/Times of San Diego

Antifa make it a goal to photograph and identify those jurors as a form of intimidation and to research their backgrounds. Last summer at Andy Ngo's civil trial of two Antifa members in Portland, Ore., the trial was repeatedly halted due to security and safety incidents. The judge in that case sealed the jury roll over fears that the jurors would be subject to harassment or violence after the trial.

Trial Recap

"I hadn't seen a group that coordinated," San Diego Police detective Emily Clark testified in the first week of trial. She was one of the witnesses, experts and assault victims the prosecution presented to show jurors how violent and organized So Cal Antifa were at the riot.


San Diego Police detective Emily Clark testifies about the coordinated violence by So Cal Antifa. Photo: Ken Stone/Times of San Diego

Prosecutors presented hours of riot video, recovered encrypted Signal messages, private texts, aerial video from a police helicopter and photographs.

Lead prosecutor Makenzie Harvey showed jurors the armored black bloc costume and mask worn by White at the riot, even though he claimed to be a volunteer "medic." White was armed with bear mace, a knife and a taser. 


San Diego County prosecutor Makenzie Harvey shows jurors the riot gear worn by Jeremy White. Photo: Ken Stone/Times of San Diego

White was known by several aliases online where he called himself "the Antifa Soldier," and "ACABman."

White chose to testify during trial, and in cross-examination, he said he began his involvement with Antifa in Los Angeles in late September 2020, when many cities in the country were experiencing deadly and violent riots after George Floyd's death. White said that opponents of Antifa are "fascists" and that "support for Trump is textbook fascism."

Unprecedented Prosecution of Antifa

The successful prosecution and prison time for the So Cal Antifa members has effectively broken up, at least temporarily, a regional southern California cluster of Antifa cells. 

The violent social media accounts associated with the groups in the conspiracy were deactivated as prosecutors gathered evidence, though they may go back online at another point under the same name or using a different identity. 

The San Diego District Attorney's Office, headed by DA Summer Stephen, had been targeted by organized left-wing activists and media to baselessly accuse her of being "alt-right" and "antisemitic." In 2018, Stephen was elected by San Diego voters over her George Soros-financed opponent


Convicted So Cal Antifa member Jeremy White shared a social media post falsely accusing the San Diego DA of having ties to 'white supremacist' groups

Elected Soros-linked prosecutors in other liberal jurisdictions, like Multnomah County, Ore., which includes Portland, often choose not to prosecute suspects engaged in far-left political violence. 

"From the start, this prosecution has been about holding individuals accountable for conspiring to bring violence to our community, something we won't tolerate," DA Stephen said in a press release announcing the sentences.

The DA's Office also declared in a statement: "It's believed that this is the first criminal case in the nation where crimes committed by members of Antifa were brought to justice and held accountable." 

Supporters of Jeremy White have been using social media to promote his fundraising campaign. One of the fundraising organizers and a friend of White appeared to threaten Judge Goldstein and the prosecutors.

"These nazi f*cks made a huge mistake," wrote sex worker "Lux Lives." She says White will read more radical literature in prison and come out more hardened and dangerous.

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