The Oregon Department of Justice has determined that a discrimination complaint made against Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt by Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson was "unfounded."
Gibson's complaint against Schmidt goes back to May 1, 2019, when Gibson and several others associated with his far-right group Patriot Prayer ambushed anti-fascist activists dining at Cider Riot, a former Northeast Portland bar. Gibson and five others were arrested for their involvement in the planned attack and subsequent street brawl, which sent one person to the hospital.
Gibson, who faces a felony riot charge, has fought the county over his case at every turn, with the help of his lawyer, former Multnomah County GOP head James Buchal. After Gibson's arrest, Buchal unsuccessfully attempted to move his client's case out of Multnomah County, arguing that locals are unfairly prejudiced against Gibson for his track record of holding disruptive protests in Portland.
Then Schmidt took office in August 2020, and introduced a policy to dismiss certain non-violent protest charges—including rioting—stemming from the summer's racial justice protests. This prompted Buchal to request Gibson's charges be dismissed under Schmidt’s new policy. Schmidt’s office, however, explained that the policy only applied only to charges tied to the summer's protests.
In response, Gibson and Russell Schultz, another Patriot Prayer protester facing riot charges for the Cider Riot incident, sued Schmidt in federal court. The pair, represented by Buchal, accused Schmidt of treating them differently because of their political views.
"Defendants are engaged in a bad faith, selective, and retaliatory prosecuting of Plaintiffs because Plaintiffs have publicly expressed opinions with which Defendants disagree," reads the lawsuit, filed in September 2020. The court threw out the lawsuit in February. But that's not where the complaint stopped.
Schmidt also asked the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the men's complaint. He received a response on July 30.
In a letter to the Multnomah County District Attorney's office, Oregon DOJ Chief Counsel Michael Slauson explains that county prosecutors did not choose to investigate Gibson and Shultz because of some political prejudices, they did so because it was their job—they were sent the investigation to examine by the arresting Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers.
Slauson writes that Gibson and Schultz's criminal charges were "based on information derived from police reports, video evidence, and conversations with law enforcement investigators, and was later endorsed by the grand jury that issued indictments against complainants."
"For those reasons," he continues, "we find the complaint unfounded."
The Multnomah County District Attorney's office shared Slauson's findings in a Friday press release. Schmidt did not comment on the decision.
Like many facing charges in Multnomah County, Gibson's criminal trial has been repeatedly delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gibson and Schultz currently share an October 1 court date.