The Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) doesn't usually out the John Does it fights for in criminal cases. But Tony Rackauckas would be wise to make an exception for Jessica Aguilar, as it might keep her from being wrongfully convicted.
Aguilar was one of five counterprotesters arrested at a March 25 #MAGAmarch at Bolsa Chica State Beach that made international headlines after law enforcement said the protesters assaulted peaceful Trump supporters with pepper spray and other weapons. But after OC Weekly reported the truth—that Trumpbros harassed, kicked, punched and intimidated the vastly outnumbered antifa, and that said antifa used pepper spray only to defend themselves and Weekly reporters from being attacked—the OCDA announced on June 2 that it dropped charges against four of the five. "The OCDA could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt as to who started the physical altercation," read the press release.
The office instead focused on Aguilar, charging the 20-year-old Sacramento resident with two misdemeanor counts of battery—one for "punching John Doe 1 in the face," and another for allegedly "slapping John Doe 2 in the face twice." Her case has been continued to Nov. 22.
Lead prosecutor Brett Brian did not return a Weekly request for comment about Aguilar, nor did OCDA chief of staff Susan Kang Schroeder. Maybe it's because they know their case is terrible. OCDA won't reveal who the John Does are, but photos and videos reviewed by the Weekly prove Aguilar was arrested on false charges by California State Park Peace Officers who never bothered to investigate the claims of her alleged victims. And while Aguilar did hit people during the #MAGAmarch, it was only in self-defense.
In a California State Park Peace Officers report obtained by the Weekly, officer Aaron Hoff writes that he and a fellow officer were monitoring the March 25 rally when a "riotous situation" occurred. Soon, someone handed him Aguilar, saying, "This is one of the protesters that was pepper-spraying people!"
The black-clad Aguilar held a "pink canister of pepper spray," Hoff wrote. As Aguilar sat in police custody, a man only identified as Pham told Hoff, "That girl punched me in the face and pepper-sprayed some people!" Pham showed Hoff a cut on his brow, which Hoff photographed and included in his report.
Hoff redacted Pham's first name, but The California Report interviewed a man named Kevin Pham, who told reporter Erika Aguilar that "a woman wearing all black" punched him and left him with a "swollen cut between his eyebrows." If that Pham is the same one who reported Aguilar to the police, he failed to disclose his role in provoking the injury.
Aerial footage shot by KTTV-TV Channel 11 shows the same man photographed by Hoff brushing aside an antifa who peacefully held a banner before returning to lean into him. He shoved another antifa wearing white goggles three times with his flag pole before that antifa—not Aguilar—responded by socking Pham in the face. Afterward, Pham jabbed his flag pole into the back of yet another antifa.
Hoff's report also stated that State Park Peace Officer Ryan Gates told him that a man identified only as "Evans" claimed that "a female wearing [a] black hoodie and black swimming goggles assaulted him with pepper spray." That man would be Ray Evans of Westminster, who told the Los Angeles Times "he was trying to wrest a stick from a counterprotester who was using it as a weapon when he was pepper-sprayed by a woman." (He also told KCBS-TV Channel 2 on air that he was pepper-sprayed.) In a follow-up interview, Evans told Hoff that "a girl" pepper-sprayed #MAGAmarch organizer Jennifer Sterling and that he "tried to grab" Aguilar before she targeted him. In a supplemental report, Sterling told Hoff that although she didn't see exactly who attacked her, "an unknown MAGA march supporter" said Aguilar was the culprit, so Sterling "reviewed multiple online videos of the incident," and "she could clearly tell that the suspect was a female wearing all black."
Hoff said he only reviewed footage from a KTLA-TV Channel 5 segment to corroborate Evans' and Sterling's stories. It shows Aguilar seeming to lunge at Sterling, who "recoil[ed] immediately after Aguilar reaches her," he wrote. He included stills from the KTLA dispatch and noted that Aguilar wore a black bandanna "with white spots covering her mouth."
Hoff used that description to identify her as the assailant of Evans, Sterling and Pham. But other video captured the full story. Minutes before being pepper-sprayed, KTTV footage showed Evans leaned into the same antifa banner Pham had passed, as if trying to rip through it. He shoved an antifa who tried to get him off it and videotaped himself kicking another "into his groin area," as he later boasted on Facebook.
When it came to the pepper-spraying of him and Sterling, further footage he uploaded to Facebook clearly shows Aguilar standing to the side as another antifa used the spray.
The caustic weapon wasn't intended for Evans or Sterling, but rather a member of South Bay-based white-supremacist fight club DIY Division that was attacking Weekly reporter Frank John Tristan. Sterling (who was also trying to protect Tristan), Evans and others just happened to get in the way of the pepper spray. The KTTV footage further showed that Aguilar first swatted at the DIY Division member to get him off Tristan, then swung at the DIYer just after Sterling reacted to the pepper spray.
And instead of trying to grab Aguilar in the aftermath, KTTV's copter camera showed Evans kneeling on the ground, getting his eyes washed out by a Trump supporter and being cooled down by a woman wearing a pink pussyhat.
Despite Evans' and Pham's easily disprovable tales, Hoff recommended Aguilar be charged for unlawful use of a tear-gas weapon, trying to incite a riot and battery. The OCDA must've reviewed more footage than Hoff because it dropped the riot and pepper-spray charges against Aguilar, leaving the one-punch battery charge that involved Pham.
So where did the OCDA get that Aguilar smacked someone twice in the face, given neither Pham nor Evans reported it? Video footage shows Aguilar in two other altercations at the #MAGAmarch. A video that went viral on conservative media showed that she slapped a man twice—but only after he twice yelled at her, "Fuck you, bitch!" That man, Tyler Laube, was the DIY Division member who had assaulted Tristan. (The Weekly identified Laube through tracking his since-deleted Facebook and Instagram accounts.)
LA County Superior Court records list a Tyler Laube on formal and summary probation at the time of the March 25 rally for four separate convictions (robbery, resisting arrest, carrying a switchblade and driving under the influence). The OCDA has not filed charges against Laube for assaulting a member of the press.
Below is the video where you can see Laube assault Tristan starting at :18. Evans is the guy on left wearing a camouflage hat and striped longsleeve shirt in the cover photo here, where you can also see Laube just to the right of the head of the goateed grayhair guy with sunglasses near the center:
The only other footage showing Aguilar hitting others happened as she and other antifa tried to flee from the DIY Division (which now calls itself Rise Above Movement) and other angry Trump supporters after the pepper-spraying of Sterling. One DIY member kicked Aguilar's friend; another, Ben Daley (also identified by the Weekly via his social-media posts), shoved his banner into Aguilar's face; she tried to punch him in return.
Seconds later, a Trump supporter intentionally rammed into Aguilar, who responded by trying to slap him. He punched her in the face, sending Aguilar to the ground.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
She nevertheless managed to get up and run toward her friend, who was on the ground and getting assaulted by another DIY looser. Footage shows Aguilar was about to use pepper spray to save her friend when Daley grabbed her.
He handed her off to Hoff, then met up with the neo-Nazi Hammerskins.