LOS ANGELES — The legal team representing Trevor Gerard, a Black Lives Matter activist, and Hugo S. Rossitter, the deputy city attorney representing L.A. Police Commission President Matt M. Johnson, have mutually agreed to a continuance in order to sort out issues involving witnesses, according to Frank T. Mateljan, a spokesperson for the city attorney’s office.
The case stems from a temporary restraining order filed in December on behalf of Johnson, who alleges that Gerard stalked him at his home and at the private law office where he works. The complaint also alleges that Gerard mouthed violent threats directed to Johnson from the audience while he attended police commission meetings.
A report published in the L.A. Weekly identified fellow commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill as a surprise witness expected to appear when the hearing resumes in L.A. Superior Court on March 1. The L.A. Weekly report stated that McClain-Hill “will offer a rebuttal at a later date to key allegations made in the complaint filed by her colleague, board President Matt M. Johnson.”
When contacted by The Wave, McClain-Hill said, “I have no reason to be or plan to be present” at the March 1 hearing.
Gerard said in an interview that he had issued a subpoena to McClain-Hill.
“We had a conversation at an event where she said that she had never seen me threaten this man and it would be great if I could get somebody who was on the dais to also testify,” Gerard said. “She also expressed surprise that he was able to get a restraining order in the first place because nothing we had done was outside of the normal realm of legal protests.”
Gerard has said he believes the restraining order threatens his right to free speech and is a diversion from the larger issue of police killings. The request calls for Gerard to stay at least 100 yards from Johnson, his wife and children, and his home and the law firm where he works.
In discussing the case and his plans to contest Johnson’s allegations, Gerard applauded Nana Gyamfi and the legal team at Justice Warriors for Black Lives for their work on his behalf. He said Johnson’s attorney was surprised to find out at the hearing that McClain-Hill had been subpoenaed to testify.
“They had no idea about any of this,” Gerard said. “All of this could have been avoided. It’s one of those things where sometimes when you start to tell untruths they start to spiral into something that we never sort of planned. We all knew from the beginning what this was. I also think they thought we would lay down without a fight.
“On one hand you have Johnson sitting on this board where he continues to approve of and condone LAPD treatment of black people and then on the other hand, earlier in the day, you’re in court where you’re trying to criminalize black people from the actual community who are speaking about these things.
“It’s pretty incongruous for him to present himself like he’s some champion of the black community. One of them doesn’t fit and we’re going to find out which one doesn’t,” Gerard said.
A coalition of South Los Angeles community leaders, including Project Islamic HOPE, National Action Network, the NAACP and Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable have called on LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to assign an LAPD security detail to Johnson for all public appearances Johnson makes on behalf of the city.
In a joint press release, the organizations stated that any threat against Johnson by Gerard or members of Black Lives Matter must be taken seriously.
“We believe that the personal safety of Johnson, his wife, and children is at risk,” said Najee Ali, executive director of Project Islamic HOPE.
“Just because [Cynthia McClain-Hill] didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. If that’s their defense, that’s ludicrous,” Ali said.