Attorney for Antifa 'ringleader' loses motion to get TPM reporter blocked from covering case

"Normally what I’ve seen is that when the Defense has an objection to the media, it is The Media. It’s all media. You’re singling out a particular media person."

Eva Knott San Diego CA

On July 18, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled against an attorney for an Antifa leader who had filed moving papers trying to get one journalist banned from covering his criminal case. 

John Hamasaki, the defense attorney for alleged Antifa riot “leader” Brian Cortez Lightfoot Jr., filed motions against Eva Knott, a San Diego journalist, trying to prevent Knott from reporting court hearings and revealing evidence against Lightfoot. 

On Feb 22, 2023, the Post Millennial published a story about Lightfoot that included photos of the defendant and his attorney Hamasaki, and two days later on Feb 24, Hamasaki filed his documents seeking to bar Eva Knott, and the publications San Diego READER and Post Millennial, from the courtroom.

“Hamasaki filed the motion to retaliate and limit negative press coverage,” attorney D. Gill Sperlein declared in his written responses to the court.

After his win in court this week, attorney Sperlein declared, “Mr. Hamaski made this motion on behalf of Mr. Lightfoot because he did not like Eva Knott’s reporting about him. Recognizing this, the Court made two important findings, both of which were correct."

"First, the Court found that while Mr. Lightfoot has standing to seek to exclude the media generally from the Courtroom, he does not have standing to challenge the Court’s decision to grant a specific reporter or news outlet the right to photograph or record criminal proceedings. Second, the Court stated that even if Lightfoot had standing to bring the challenge, Ms. Knott did not engage in any activity that was injurious to the court or that would impede the proceedings. I agree one hundred percent with the Court’s findings.”

D. Gill Sperlein is one of a team of lawyers with the Harmeet Dhillon Law Group in San Francisco, California. Sperlein appeared in person, in a San Diego Superior Courtroom, last Tuesday.

After Sperlein won the argument completely, Harmeet K. Dhillon, who is also CEO of the Center for American Liberty, stated, “The court got it right. Attempts to revoke a journalist’s courtroom press credentials in retaliation for negative coverage are one hundred percent antithetical to the First Amendment. The Center for American Liberty is proud to defend Eva Knott and the Freedom of the Press.”

The losing attorney, Hamasaki, represents Lightfoot Jr., who is alleged to be a “leader” during a violent riot on a San Diego beach boardwalk on January 9, 2021. Hamasaki’s motions sought to exclude Knott from the courtroom and asked the judge to order Knott to destroy all photographs and recordings of Antifa defendants that Knott had already obtained, with court’s permission.

Honorable Judge Daniel Goldstein asked during the motions hearing, “You know, I’m just a San Diego judge. Normally what I’ve seen is that when the Defense has an objection to the media, it is The Media. It’s all media. You’re singling out a particular media person.”

Part of Hamasaki’s response was: “It’s Mister Lightfoot’s hearing, it’s Mister Lightfoot’s trial.  He’s being affected negatively by the publicity that has been created.” Hamasaki also stated, “The issue was that Miss Knott used a pseudonym.” Hamasaki tried to claim that the writer using the pen name Eva Knott was a violation of Rules of Court. 

The court responded by asking, “Do you know how long she has been using that name?”  (Eva Knott has been reporting court news in San Diego for fifteen years, using that same pen name, with a San Diego Police Press Pass.) Hamasaki answered, “I don’t think that’s relevant.” The judge replied, “Can I decide what is relevant? So you’re objecting to my question on relevance?” (This caused nervous laughter in the courtroom, from attorneys and other observers.)

The judge also noticed that Hamasaki complained in his moving papers that, “There’s some right wing provocateur that she’s providing information to.” This seemed to refer to Eva Knott sending some of her reports to The Post Millennial and famous Antifa journalist Andy Ngo, who often reveals violent Antifa acts. The local publication San Diego READER has also published Knott’s coverage of the local riot and court hearings afterward.

Responding attorney D. Gill Sperlein told the judge, “It’s completely content-based saying that he doesn’t want certain people to report in a certain way. …You can’t just deny people access because you think that they are a provocateur or they are right wing or for any other reason…He makes those allegations that there’s some viewpoint that he doesn’t agree with.”

The judge declared to Hamasaki, “I just don’t think that there’s a reason for me to exclude Miss Knott because she’s some type of right-wing provocateur. That would be content based. Your motion is denied.”

When Hamasaki tried to save his argument, “Okay, Your Honor, just one point of clarification —“ Hon. Judge Daniel Goldstein replied, “You submitted. We are done.” 

And Hamasaki, who attended the court hearing by remote video monitor said, “Understood. Thank you.” 

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