A man accused of using tear gas on three men during a Palestinian protest in north Fresno last May plead not guilty at an arraignment Thursday.
Brian Turner, 62, is facing three counts of unlawfully using tear gas with three hate crime enhancements during a May 15 incident as he was driving home and past the demonstration.
Turner was driving westbound on Nees and stopped for a red light at the Blackstone intersection, where protest took place. A car stopped beside him, where the occupants allegedly asked if he supported the Palestinian cause. Turner said no.
One alleged victim recorded video of part of the incident and posted it on social media. It appears to show one protester get out of a car approaching Turner. As he does, Turner responded by spraying tear gas before driving away.
Twitter find this f***** he started shooting pepper spray us at Palestine Protest in Fresno pic.twitter.com/myXe3j80bp
— Ahmad (@Qutami_Ahmad) May 16, 2021
The arraignment lasted less than three minutes. Turner did not physically appear in the courtroom in front of fill-in Judge Wayne Ellison. Instead, Turner entered his plea via Zoom at the office of his attorney Marc Kapetan. The case will return to court Sept. 28.
Kapetan said the district attorney’s office erred in charging his client with the hate crime enhancements.
“I think because of the nature of the protest, the district attorney’s made the assumption that my client’s actions may have been related to the topic, but there’s nothing further from the truth,” Kapetan said.
Kapetan said he is likely to use self-defense as an argument against the charges, but would not go into more detail.
“In looking at the case and looking at the facts, one of my alternatives is to have the People try to prove what they’ve alleged. I just don’t know if they could get there. I think this guy has had a very clean, upstanding life. He is a great citizen and I was driving on his way home from dropping dinner off at his mother’s house and drove into a situation that he did not ask for and he did not plan,” Kapetan said.
If convicted of all charges, Turner could face six years, four months in prison.