A 21-year-old man was sentenced Friday to 13 months in prison for bashing cars with a baseball bat, destroying an electrical utility box and starting a fire in the middle of the street during a late night November protest.
Mateen Shaheed was one of the most destructive of the 120 people arrested during six consecutive nights of demonstrations after the Nov. 8 presidential election of Donald Trump, prosecutors said. Shaheed wasn’t an anti-Trump protester, but simply an angry man, they said.
Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin had asked Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bloch to sentence Shaheed to 1 1/2 years in prison.
“Eighteen months in prison sends a message to the community that this type of conduct is simply intolerable — exclamation point — in Portland,” Lufkin said.
He described Shaheed’s rampage on the night of Nov. 10 as “jubilant violence — running around, smashing things left and right.”
Lufkin also said such violence discourages peaceful protesters from going out and expressing their views in the future, out of fear they might encounter people like Shaheed.
Lufkin showed the judge videos of Shaheed swinging at cars parked neatly in a row at a Toyota dealership near the Burnside Bridge; repeatedly striking a utility box at Northeast Portland’s Holladay Park, causing dramatic sprays of sparks to fly; setting a Portland Tribune newspaper box on fire; trying to light a tree on fire with what appears to be a flare; and shattering an electronic display screen at a TriMet bus stop and “skipping away,” the prosecutor said.
In June, Shaheed pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree criminal mischief and two counts of second-degree criminal mischief.
Shaheed’s defense attorney, Jennifer List, said her client had a difficult childhood and a learning disability that wasn’t addressed in school until his teen years.
She said he has made a lot of progress toward changing in the 11 months that have passed since the incidents.
Shaheed had a baby with his girlfriend in April, and that has “given him focus,” List said. He also got his driver’s license and trained as a flagger, and has been working full time, she said. Before his November crimes, his only employment had been holding a sign outside a furniture store, List said.
List said Shaheed also has been getting treatment at the Avel Gordly Center for Healing, which offers therapy for people with mental health and addiction problems.
“The man that you see in the courtroom today is not the man the prosecution has shown you in the video,” List said.
Shaheed originally had been scheduled for sentencing last week until an argument broke out between List and Lufkin.
List said it seemed inconsistent that the prosecutor’s office was seeking prison for Shaheed, who is African American, while a white man who threw a Molotov cocktail into a crowd of Trump protesters on Nov. 11 was sentenced to probation as part of a plea agreement in April.
Lufkin adamantly disagreed.
“She’s insinuating that I’m a racist,” Lufkin told the judge.
List said she wasn’t saying any such thing, but that the criminal justice system needs to be aware of “implicit bias.”
Lufkin said he thought it was unprofessional to bring up the Molotov cocktail case in court with no notice, because he wasn’t familiar with that case. It was handled by another prosecutor.
The judge gave Lufkin time to investigate. On Friday, Lufkin told the judge he thought the Molotov cocktail case was vastly different because it was one incident of violence, not many as in Shaheed’s case. Lufkin also said the flaming cocktail extinguished before it hit the ground and didn’t put any of the people around it in real danger.
List didn’t make any arguments in response, and the hearing moved on.
The judge said Shaheed’s behavior had been “very concerning,” so he couldn’t give him probation. Bloch also said Shaheed’s actions could discourage others from attending protests and exercising their First Amendment rights.
“There has to be a consequence,” Bloch said before sentencing Shaheed to 13 months.
Shaheed will have to pay restitution, which the prosecution says amounts to more than $30,000. Bloch will have to approve the amount at a later date, after the defense looks it over.
As Bloch left the bench and stepped into his chambers, Shaheed angrily complained to the judge about sending him to prison.
— Aimee Green
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