California District Attorney Dan Dow is clearing the air after misinformation was spread on social media and other outlets regarding Tianna Arata’s 15-year prison sentence.
Arata was arrested on July 21, by the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) in California after police said a protest she organized turned violent and led to vandalism and destruction. According to police, the protest included at least 300 people, and many blocked Highway 101, stopping traffic for almost an hour. In addition, a passenger vehicle was allegedly damaged, and its rear windows were destroyed; glass also fell on a four-year-old passenger who was in the back seat. Prior to the protest, SLOPD police chief reached out to the 20-year-old to get her word that the protest would be safe, according to a statement released by authorities.
— Sarah Baska (@SarahBaska) August 10, 2020
Authorities launched an investigation that lasted two weeks, and afterward, Arata was reportedly charged with five felonies, including four felony counts of false imprisonment, and one felony count of conspiracy. She was also reportedly given three misdemeanor charges – resisting or obstructing a peace officer, inciting a riot, and unlawful assembly, resisting or obstructing a peace officer, inciting a riot, and unlawful assembly, BET.com reports. Rumors then started circulating on online via social media and news outlets that Arata was facing 15 years in prison. The news prompted social media to call out the injustice, with many saying Arata should not be held accountable for the acts of others.
A woman by the name Mel, who identified herself as Arata’s best friend, also spoke out about the matter. “There was no riot. It was a beautiful, peaceful protest filled with Black and Brown joy. They used excessive force; Tianna could barely keep up with the six grown men forcing her to the car.” Arata spoke to The Tribune, saying her arrest is taking a toll on her mental health. “It’s deteriorating me. Mentally as well as physically because I don’t get good rest. I’m waking up in the middle of the night,” said the young woman. “I just turned 20 last month, there’s so much that I want to accomplish. And I’ve been through so much struggle in my life that dealing with this, it’s just, like, I want to be able to overcome it and to go on to the new steps of my life.”
#freetianna there was NO imprisonment on the freeway and the car that “had a 4 year old in the back” ACCELERATED INTO PROTESTORS FIRST. the freeway portion of the march was peaceful and occupying the roadway does not give ANYONE the right to use a car as a DEADLY WEAPON!!! pic.twitter.com/fHMsQ4vU2d
— nicole huffman (@nicoleahuffman) August 10, 2020
In response, Dow wrote a statement to clear up any misinformation about Arata’s case. “Today, August 10, the district attorney’s office began its review of the referral to determine if criminal charges should be filed, and if so, what charges to bring. The review will involve examination of all of the evidence that includes many social media posts, video evidence, witness statements, and other evidence. It is likely that additional investigation will be necessary before making a criminal filing decision. Additionally, the district attorney’s office is in communication with Ms. Arata’s defense counsel and will consider any evidence or information provided by her counsel in conjunction with the review,” wrote Dow.
He continued: “Finally, recent social media posts and other media reports state that Ms. Arata faces 15 years in prison for her conduct. This is patently incorrect and a reckless statement. Due to public safety realignment (AB 109) signed into law in 2011, the charges referred are only eligible to be sentenced to a term in county jail, not state prison. Although the San Luis Obispo Police Department has listed numerous charges that they believe the evidence supports, the decision of what charges to bring is completely within the District Attorney’s authority and responsibility. All individuals charged with a crime are legally presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law. Therefore, it is premature to speculate or discuss what possible sentence would be appropriate or warranted.”
Dow said that Arata will be appearing in the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on September 3. Dow says the decision to criminally charge Arata will likely happen before that date.