A Surprise Witness Steps Forward in Case of Black Lives Matter Activist
A surprise witness was identified in Superior Court on Tuesday in the case of the Los Angeles Police Commission president who filed a temporary restraining order against a prominent member of Black Lives Matter L.A. The witness is fellow L.A. police commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill, who will offer a rebuttal at a later date to key allegations made in the complaint filed by her colleague, board president Matt M. Johnson.
Johnson filed the request for a temporary restraining order in December against Trevor Gerard, a Black Lives Matter member identified in court filings by his given name of Trevor Ferguson. In the complaint, Johnson accuses Gerard of stalking him at his home in Sherman Oaks and at the entertainment law firm where he works in Century City. Johnson states in the complaint that he feared for his life and the safety of his family.
Gerard, 35, denies the allegations and says that the statements and actions attributed to him in the complaint fail to mention they were part of group protests outside Johnson's home and inside his place of work.
According to to Nana Gyamfi, the attorney representing Gerard in court, McClain-Hill will testify about another allegation made in the complaint: that Gerard mouthed violent threats to Johnson from the audience at board meetings and made threatening statements, including “a gratuitous reference” to Johnson’s children.
Gyamfi told L.A. Superior Court Judge Carol Boas Goodson at the Tuesday hearing that McClain-Hill "will testify that Mr. Ferguson has not mouthed threats, that she has not seen Mr. Ferguson mouth threats to Mr. Johnson or make any threats verbally or audibly,”
Judge Boas Goodson asked if McClain-Hill, as a witness, was in a position to see any such threats.
“Yes, she was at the same dais to see that. It would be like someone sitting next to you up there,” Gyamfi said.
McClain-Hill did not respond to requests for comment. Johnson, who was present at the hearing on Tuesday, left the courtroom immediately after it concluded and did not take questions.
Protester Trevor Gerard at a Black Lives Matter encampment in front of Los Angeles City Hall
Frank T. Mateljan III, deputy communications director for the L.A. City Attorney's Office, which is representing Johnson in the complaint, told L.A. Weekly in an email that Hugo S. Rossitter, the deputy city attorney on the case, was not informed until the hearing that McClain-Hill had been subpoenaed to testify. Mateljan said the unexpected development was a factor in Rossitter's request for continuance. All the protective provisions of the temporary restraining order remain in effect, he said.
McClain-Hill is one of two black police commissioners on the five-person civilian oversight board; Johnson is the other. Both were appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti — Johnson as the board president in 2015, McClain-Hill as commissioner last year. The Police Commission is charged with overseeing the LAPD, setting policy and determining whether police use of force was justified.
Gerard frequently attended commission meetings and spoke during the public comment time, often addressing Johnson directly, even abrasively. Johnson ordered Gerard removed from a Police Commission meeting in October.
McClain-Hill has drawn the ire of the L.A. Police Protective League, the union representing police officers. The LAPPL criticized McClain-Hill in an open letter to Mayor Garcetti and City Council president Herb Wesson in October, stating the police commissioner was not "an objective member of the Commission focused on improving the L.A. Police Department."
The police union letter refers to McClain-Hill's meeting with the public in the aftermath of a raucous Police Commission meeting on Oct. 4. Johnson had publicly adjourned the meeting, citing repeated disruptions by members of the audience. "Rather than joining her fellow Commissioners after the public adjournment," the letter states, "Ms. McClain-Hill stayed with the group responsible for shutting down the public meeting and encouraged their anti-democratic behavior."
Los Angeles Police Commissioner Matthew M. Johnson
CBS Los Angeles
The Times described McClain-Hill's interaction with the public as follows:
McClain-Hill said that the audience needs to trust that the commission is making an effort to increase transparency. The LAPD, she said, has lost the trust of the community.
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A month before that meeting, in September, McClain-Hill issued a directive to the LAPD, backed by a unanimous vote of the commissioners, for a deep analysis of how the department handles complaints that allege racial profiling.
The provisions of Johnson's temporary restraining order calls for Gerard to stay at least 100 yards away from Johnson, Johnson’s wife and children, and his home and the law firm where he works. Additionally, it requires Gerard to stay at least five yards away from Johnson during public meetings, though it specifies he may still address the Board of Police Commissioners during the public comment time.
Gyamfi, Gerard's lawyer, said after the Tuesday hearing that the restraining order was part of an effort to intimidate members of Black Lives Matter L.A. and "to bully Trevor into not embarrassing and angering Matt Johnson."
The next hearing will take place at L.A. Superior Court on March 1.
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