EXCLUSIVE: Andy Ngo faces alleged attackers in Portland court for day 1 of civil trial

"I'm not a confrontational person, I've never been in a fight, and I didn’t know what it was like to be punched in the face or the head," Ngo testified.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
The highly anticipated jury trial of world Post Millennial senior editor and investigative journalist Andy Ngo against Rose City Antifa and its alleged affiliated members began on Tuesday at the Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, Oregon. Opening statements and witness testimony from Andy Ngo were delivered before the jury.

In 2020, Ngo filed a lawsuit in Portland, Oregon against alleged members of Rose City Antifa claiming assault and other injuries from multiple incidents which began in 2019.

Before the main trial, three alleged Antifa respondents were found "in default," and will be held liable for damages, which will likely be decided after the main trial by Judge Champone P. Sinlapasai, who is deciding the case. Those defaulted respondents are Corbyn Katherine Belyea, Madison Lee Allen, and Joseph Christian Evans.

In addition, Ngo reached a settlement with respondent Benjamin Patrick Bolen on July 16, 2023, which resulted in Bolen not having to be part of the jury trial, though the details of that settlement are not public. On July 14, 2023, Rose City Antifa was dismissed from the lawsuit by a Portland judge on grounds that Rose City Antifa is "not a discreet entity under common law" and therefore cannot be sued nor served.

The remaining defendants that will be decided upon by the trial jury are John Colin Hacker and Elizabeth Renee Richter, who arrived in the courtroom on Tuesday morning.

While the trial is open to the public, Judge Champone P. Sinlapasai enacted heavy media restrictions, allowing only photographs to be taken during court proceedings. The protections are in place due to alleged threats of violence and doxxing of jury members made by unspecified individuals, according to the judge.

After Judge Sinlapasai briefed the 13 person jury on the rules of deciding a civil case, the trial began with the hearing opening statements from both the plaintiff's and defense's legal teams.

Opening Statements: Plaintiff

Dorothy Yamamoto, Andy Ngo's attorney, explained to the jury that the alleged physical assaults, unprecedented threats of violence, and severe intimidation that Ngo has had to endure by members of Antifa, including Hacker and Richter, resulted in the journalist being forced to leave Portland and relocate to another country to rebuild a new life abroad in order to feel a sense of safety.

Yamamoto explained that while this trial involves violent attacks against Ngo, in which Hacker and Richter were allegedly involved in, that occurred on May 7, 2019 and May 28, 2021, further acts of violence on different dates that have been carried out by affiliated members of Rose City Antifa contribute to the trial in the sense that Hacker and Richter have referenced the brutal physical assaults, either online or to Ngo directly.

On May 7, 2019, defendant John Colin Hacker allegedly assaulted and robbed Ngo at a 24 Hour Fitness gym. Hacker is accused of pouring an unspecified liquid onto Ngo in an unprovoked assault. Ngo began to film Hacker with his phone out of fear that the altercation would escalate. Hacker then allegedly stole Ngo's phone and broke the phone case in the process. Gym staff intervened, were able to retrieve Ngo's phone, and reportedly revoked Hacker's membership.

Yamamoto told the jury that during this time, Ngo was "not popular" and was merely an "on-the-ground investigative journalist" that found a niche in covering political protests due to the lack of reporting by mainstream media during times of hyper-political polarization in the US. The attorney explained that the altercation with Hacker at the gym was the first time Ngo was confronted over his journalism work in a personal setting. She said that this was the moment Ngo "realized he was going to be recognized in public."

Before the confrontation at the gym, Hacker had allegedly helped organize an event on May 1, 2019 outside of restaurant Cider Riot in Portland, in which Ngo was assaulted multiple times by alleged members of Antifa. Ngo had reported on that event, and Hacker allegedly brought up Ngo's reporting to him during the gym altercation, expressing severe criticism about Ngo's reporting that day.

"Nevertheless," Yamamoto said, "Andy persevered." She told the jury that following the May 1, 2019 attacks and May 7, 2019 altercation with Hacker, Ngo was forced to adopt new reporting tactics, which included concealing his identity while reporting in the field, and livestreaming events instead of filming and uploading to social media.

On June 29, 2019, Ngo covered an event organized by Rose City Antifa in Portland, Oregon. Dueling counterprotests organized by right-wing groups were also organized at the same time. Ngo was brutally beaten by members of Antifa while reporting on this event, which left him with significant injuries to both his body and brain. Ngo was allegedly repeatedly punched, kicked in the head, hit with placards on the head, and was doused in "concrete-infused" milkshakes by alleged members of black bloc Antifa. Ngo's equipment was also reportedly stolen during this incident. This resulted in Ngo needing a hospital stay due to brain injuries, as well as months of cognitive therapy.

"After this incident, my client could not do ground reporting because of violence," Yamamoto said. "There are people who passionately hate my client."

However, after a long time of avoiding on-the-ground reporting, Ngo decided to cover a direct action in Portland on May 28, 2021, an event that Yamamoto argued, "broke my client," which involved both Hacker and Richter.

On May 28, 2021, Hacker and Richter allegedly participated in events that resulted in Ngo being beaten by a mob of Antifa. On that day, Ngo was observing Antifa attacks on the Portland Justice Center and the central precinct of Portland police when Hacker reportedly approached Ngo and questioned him about his attire. Ngo was reporting undercover in attire that concealed his identity. After Hacker identified Ngo, a mob of Antifa chased him down the street and brutally beat him. The first person to identify Ngo that night was Hacker, according to Yamamoto.

Ngo was able to escape his attackers and run into The Nines Hotel to seek refuge after another journalist stepped in to distract the group. This is when defendant Elizabeth Renee Richter allegedly followed Ngo into the hotel, livestreamed his location, and spewed violent verbal threats before she was repelled by hotel staff who insisted that she leave. While inside the hotel, Richter is allegedly heard screaming, "I can't wait for you to come out, Andy!” and "You thought the milkshakes were bad last time! We are going to beat the f*ck out of you b*tch!" This incident was captured on video.

Richter is accused of broadcasting video showing Andy Ngo trying to hide from his attackers. She allegedly described his location inside the hotel and verbally encouraged more assaults on Ngo. Video showing parts of this alleged assault is on YouTube. During this time, a mob of Antifa formed outside of the hotel which included both Hacker and Richter. Riot police arrived to disperse the crowd and Ngo was escorted to the hospital where he was treated for significant injuries sustained during the beating.

Yamamoto said that "Andy did everything he could do and had to flee Portland" due to his safety being in jeopardy.

"After The Nines, my client decided to relocate. It was too much after the May 28, 2021 attack. Andy made up his mind to leave his parents behind and had to rebuild a new life abroad," Yamamoto told the jury.

She explained that during the trial, "What you will hear from defendants is them attacking my client's journalism. You will hear alot of noise."

Opening Statements: Defense Richter

The attorney for Elizabeth Renee Richter began his opening statement arguing before the jury that Andy Ngo is a "famous, controversial, and polarizing" journalist and that his client was allegedly not involved in any of the physically violent beatings towards Ngo.

He argued that Richter was at the direct action on May 28, 2021 and allegedly did not witness the physical altercation in which Ngo was brutally assaulted by a mob of Antifa before seeking refuge in The Nines Hotel. The attorney alleged that Richter had shown up to the hotel after seeing commotion and had already been livestreaming when she had entered and approached Andy. He said that video surveillance evidence does not show Richter with the mob of Antifa that had attacked Andy.

However, he made it clear to the jury that "Richter does not like Ngo" and admitted that she had made violent threats towards Andy, which the jury will see on video when evidence is presented.

After referring to Ngo as a "provocateur," the attorney argued that the only crime Richter committed that day was "recognizing a famous person." He explained that during the trial the jury will hear the "impact Andy Ngo has had on her life," which allegedly resulted in Richter's strong reaction that day.

Opening Statement: Defense Hacker

The attorney for John Colin Hacker began her opening statement by arguing before the jury that while admitting that her client had committed a crime at the gym on May 7, 2019, Hacker was not involved in the physical assaults that took place on May 28, 2021.

"Mr. Ngo has sued the wrong people," she told the jury. "He should have in here the people that did the bad things to him...The people who should be in here have not been identified."

In defense of Hacker's assault on Ngo at the gym, the attorney said that Hacker became emotional due to Ngo's reporting on May 1, 2019, which involved an individual that he had a personal relationship with, and decided to confront him. She explained that Hacker forcibly took the phone because "he didn't want to be recorded."

The attorney described both Hacker and Richter as two "progressive activists that are trying to make the world a better place." 

While explaining to the jury about why Hacker was at the May 28, 2021 event, she said that Hacker "likes to record cops to keep them accountable for conduct." She told the jury that Hacker had approached Ngo without knowing that the individual he approached was Andy, and alleged that he was not involved in any further incidents that occured that day other than briefly seeing Ngo outside the Justice Center.

The attorney concluded her opening statement suggesting that Ngo is trying to pin the attacks on anyone that he could identify, and denounced the violent attacks that have been made against Ngo.

Andy Ngo Takes The Stand

After opening statements, Andy Ngo took to the stand to testify under oath as the first and only witness during the first day of the trial. He answered a series of questions by his legal team about the violence he has endured as a journalist and the impact it has had on his life.

Ngo testified that between 2019 and 2021, "I have been the victim of several attacks, and between that time and after, I have been the victim of ongoing campaigns of hate and death threats because of my reporting on violent extremists in the United States."

Attorney Yamamoto asked Ngo about his upbringing in which he revealed that he was raised in Southeast Portland by his parents, who had fled Vietnam as refugees. He said that special occasions were going to the local Dairy Queen, and that he learned to speak English by watching Disney films and cartoons. Ngo said that he was a victim of bullying growing up and had a difficult early childhood over social issues. He said that he grew up a proud Oregonian because his parents were welcomed into Portland after coming from nothing.

Ngo testified that he graduated from UCLA with a BAS in Design Media Arts, and got into journalism after deciding to attend graduate school at Portland State University in 2017, where he contributed to the school's newspaper. Ngo testified that after an ardent struggle finding employment after graduating from UCLA, he was able to find meaning in life through journalism, which first began as a hobby.

Ngo explained that he liked to write about things that "went against the grain" because "those are the stories worth sharing and most interesting to read." He said that he found his work "fulfilling" and that it had also given him "confidence." An example of his work as an early journalist that he showcased included highlighting conservative students on campus that dared to wear MAGA hats despite the hyper-polarized political climate at the time. This was in 2016 before the presidential election.

After Ngo left PSU, he was introduced to national publications and continued his career in journalism as a freelance writer. He explained that his work was praised by national publications like the Wall Street Journal. As time progressed, Ngo grew fond of covering politically left-leaning events in Portland, because mainstream media was not giving them the proper coverage. His work covering these events was noticed by additional national publications which frequently highlighted his work.

Ngo testified that he started covering protests in 2017 after the US presidential election, which resulted in a riot in Portland. He said that he predominantly started on-the-ground reporting because the reporting is "much stronger when people see photos and videos." Ngo explained that while he often found himself reporting in harsh conditions, he never felt unsafe in the field until he started reporting on Antifa, which he first referred to as "people in black," unaware of who the group was.

Ngo explained that while reporting in the field, he first became aware that Anifa was a real group through social media posts made by Rose City Antifa, and alleged Antifa affiliated members showing up to protests with Antifa insignias such as iron crosses and other identifiers. He explained that Antifa began to recognize him and started blocking his camera as he tried to report, however, he said that he was never physically targeted by Antifa in the beginning of his journalism career.

Ngo explained that his style of reporting progressed along with his career. He went from strictly taking photos and videos to providing additonal context to videos and photos on micro blogs. This allowed him to be published in print and larger publications, while also being able to provide full context to his reporting. Ths is when he started providing detailed reporting on the political extremism he was witnessing in Portland, Ngo testified.

By the fall of 2018, Ngo testified that recording videos on the ground became difficult because Antifa started blocking his cameras. They would follow him around, being both confrontational and aggressive. Andy explained that Antifa knew him but he didn’t know them. Andy said reporting became difficult because Antifa would direct people not to talk to him and it became nearly impossible to get interviews.

Ngo testified that his reporting tactics began to shift after the May 1, 2019 incident in which he was attacked by alleged members of Antifa while reporting on the Cider Riot event. During this event, Ngo testified that he was doused with bear mace, and was allegedly punched in the stomach by Benjamin Bolen, a defendant in the complaint. Ngo changed his reporting tactics after this incident, saying "I was scared to be Andy covering this stuff."

Ngo testified that regarding the May 7, 2019 incident involving John Colin Hacker at the gym, that's when "I started to become scared being in Portland."

"That was the first time that somebody had confronted me outside a reporting context about their dislike and hatred because of my reporting," Ngo said. "This was me just living my private life on a regular day. Someone who recognized me at the gym that I thought was a safe place to be."

Ngo confirmed the accusations against Hacker and explained that during the altercation, Hacker, who he thought was another independent journalist at the time, was "very angry" about his reporting and had repeatedly called him a "fascist." This was when Ngo realized Hacker has far-left ideology, which he was able to confirm through his posts on Twitter.

The plaintiff showed the jury video evidence of the altercation between Hacker and Ngo.

"It seemed like the targeting of me was escalating into my personal life," Ngo said.

In regards to the brutal attack on June 29, 2019, Ngo testified that Rose City Antifa had announced an event, and right wing groups had also organized counterprotests. He explained that there was hatred of him online by far-left extremist accounts. He said that he had contemplated wearing a helmet that day, but refrained because he didn’t want people to think he was heading into a battle.

Andy testified that he was not covering his face that day because "it's a professional ethical value I have and it is important for people to know who is out there recording them." He said that, "It's important that people see the press in a transparent way." Ngo confirmed the attacks made in the complaint, which included a series of brutal beatings carried out by multiple members of Antifa, consisting of punches and kicks to the head, "concrete-infused" milkshakes thrown in his face, placards thrown at his head, and his equipment being stolen.

This incident was captured on video but the defense team objected to it being shown to the jury, arguing that it did not involve the defendants. The judge ruled that the objection could be sustained and the footage was thrown out.

Andy suggested that this incident rocked him to his core and had him questioning if he would continue pursuing his career as a journalist, explaing that "I'm not a confrontational person, I've never been in a fight, and I didn’t know what it was like to be punched in the face or the head."

Ngo testified that the attacks left him with injuries that made his face "feel like it was on fire," adding, "I just wanted to get away from the group but it was hard to see. I began feeling a bit dizzy. My balance was kind of weird, so I just sat on the ground. My phone was still on me so I turned a livestream on. I was in shock. I wasn't really contemplating what was happening to me."

Ngo testified that both defendants, Hacker and Richter, were aware of this attack and that Richter had referenced this attack during the incident at The Nines Hotel.

Andy told the jury that the impact the June 29, 2019 incident had on him resulted in immense fear. 

"Can I still continue reporting? Is it even safe to be in Portland? Is my family going to be okay?" Ngo questioned. He explained that he "couldn’t report on the ground for at least 6 months" and that his reporting style had to be completely different.

Ngo testified that following this incident, "I had to prioritize security and safety and was receiving a lot of death threats." He explained that alleged members of Antifa doxxed his phone number and home address, which was his parents address, and all of his family members information had been posted online.

Ngo explained that he had to see a cognitive, physical, and occupational therapist following the June 29 attack, and saw a psychologist for the trauma he was experiencing, which resembled PTSD.

"It was a really big setback on my work and I questioned my ability on whether or not I would be able to continue," Ngo testified.

After Ngo was questioned about the costs associated with security measures that he has been forced to take, the trial concluded for the day with Andy still on the stand.
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