Two of the six men charged for engaging in a riot on May 1, 2019 outside of Portland's Cider Riot pub have opted to plead guilty to the crimes instead of facing a jury trial. All six men are associated with Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group based in Vancouver, WA, which frequently visits Portland seeking confrontations with left-wing activists.
On Monday, Matthew "Deme" Cooper and Chris Ponte reached plea agreements with the Multnomah County District Attorney's office for their riot charges. Both men have been sentenced to 120 hours of community service and three years of probation, during which they must refrain from participating in any unpermitted protests in Multnomah County. The DA's office asked the court to sentence both Cooper and Ponte to 10 days in jail for their charges. Yet, the court decided that only Ponte should serve out that sentence.
Ponte, Chris, and four other men—including Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson—were charged in August after video evidence of their alleged May Day assaults on patrons and anti-fascist activists at Cider Riot was shared with the DAs office.
In an affidavit, a county prosecutor states that Cooper was provoking a fight on May 1 by taunting and throwing objects at people standing on Cider Riot's patio. The prosecutor also writes that Ponte pepper sprayed and threw projectiles into a crowd of people during the clash. A video taken during the incident also shows Ponte punching a man in the face.
It’s unclear if any of the other four defendants—Gibson, Ian Kramer, MacKenzie Lewis, and Russell Schultz— are currently negotiating similar plea deals with the DA's office. Of the six, Kramer is the only one who's been held in jail since his August 7 arrest. Kramer is facing three felony charges for his May Day conduct, including allegations that he hit a woman with a baton so forcefully that she was knocked unconscious—and suffered a vertebrae fracture.
All six men are named in a separate civil lawsuit filed by Cider Riot owner Abe Goldman-Armstrong, accusing the men of of acting negligently and trespassing on private property on May 1. That case is currently waiting on a ruling by the Oregon Court of Appeals on Gibson's argument that the lawsuit is illegally attempting to censor free speech. A Multnomah County judge dismissed that argument in November, but Gibson's lawyer appealed the decision on December 23.
In a press release announcing Monday's plea agreements, the DA's office is clear in what the decision implies.
"The conviction means that Cooper and Ponte are no longer disputing that on May 1, 2019 they—along with five or more others—engaged in tumultuous and violent conduct and thereby intentionally or recklessly created a grave risk of causing public alarm," the release reads.
The criminal trial for the four remaining men is scheduled to begin at the end of February.