A 20-year-old masked protester that a prosecutor described as “one of the most egregious” vandals in Portland in the days after Donald Trump’s election has been sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Samuel John Wick Kusaj III pleaded with Multnomah County Circuit Judge Thomas Ryan for leniency, acknowledging fault for lashing out.
“I feel an immense amount of remorse for the trauma I caused that night,” Kusaj said Thursday. “I say that my actions were driven by fear (over Trump’s election). … I am young. I have a lot to learn. I’m growing. But I realize that, and I think that’s very important.”
Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin had strongly recommended that Kusaj go to prison for more than a year.
On the night of the protest last Nov. 10, Kusaj’s face was covered with a red bandana, Lufkin noted.
Between about 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., various cameras caught Kusaj smashing in the windshield of a car at a Toyota dealership in Northeast Portland, shattering bank windows in the Pearl District and punching and threatening people with rocks after they tried to stop the destruction from continuing, Lufkin said.
Kusaj pleaded no contest to first-degree criminal mischief, fourth-degree assault and riot.
Sending Kusaj to prison would send a message — to Kusaj and other rioters — that such behavior is unacceptable, the prosecutor said.
“My recommendation today, judge, is a strong one, but it reflects that value,” Lufkin said. “Because in my view and the District Attorney’s Office view, if you decide … to go out into the streets of Portland and cause chaos, that is intolerable to the community. And you deserve a strict punishment.”
Police arrested 26 people that night, one of six consecutive nights that thousands flooded the streets of Portland in protest over the election. Police said a small portion in the crowd was out to damage property.
Kusaj was caught two months later after investigators widely circulated the surveillance images and asked for the public’s help in identifying the protest vandals.
Lufkin said video shows Kusaj kicking a Bank of America window near Northwest 12th Avenue and Lovejoy Street, then “applauding” when it shatters. Kusaj also can be seen wielding rocks and threatening good Samaritans who try to intervene as other rioters bash a city electrical box or break Chase Bank’s windows at Northwest 10th Avenue and Lovejoy Street.
Lufkin said the damage is far greater than monetary: It affects the psyche of public servants and law-abiding Americans.
“It shakes the confidence of the people in the Police Bureau to manage these events,” he said. “It shakes the confidence of people who want to exercise their First Amendment rights to want to go to the event. Who would want to take their children out to a protest when this is the result?”
But Kusaj and defense attorney, Josh McCarthy, argued for no prison time.
McCarthy said his client has followed all the imposed supervision rules after being released from jail on ankle monitoring. McCarthy said Kusaj also found a job and even earned a promotion. Kusaj works at an oil-changing business and makes $12.50 an hour.
McCarthy also said Kusaj had no prior criminal history and wasn’t under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the protest.
Ryan, the judge, chose to order Kusaj to 30 days in jail, a sentence that can be served over a series of weekends. Ryan also sentenced Kusaj to three years of probation for causing or helping cause more than $17,000 worth of damage to Bank of America, Chase Bank, Toyota of Portland and the city of Portland.
The judge said in addition to the reasons offered by the defense, Kusaj expressed remorse, agreed to pay for the damage and admitted responsibility through a plea.
Ryan said Kusaj must make monthly payments in restitution for the damage, and undergo a psychological evaluation and possible anger-management counseling.
Other people who act dangerously during protests shouldn’t assume they’ll receive the same sentence as Kusaj, Ryan said. That depends on the individual circumstances of the case, he said.
The judge stressed his disapproval for Kusaj’s behavior.
“This isn’t about the First Amendment, or about the Oregon constitutional right to free expression or about the right to protest,” Ryan said. “This is a criminal case.”
And he said what Kusaj did was “unacceptable,” “immature” and “criminal.”
“I will have no hesitation,” Ryan added, “to send you to prison if you don’t comply with probation.”
(c)2017 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at www.oregonian.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.