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Pepper Spray Case Delayed. Defense Wants Judge Disqualified.

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Defendant Brian Turner, right, sits with attorney Marc Kapetan at a Friday court hearing. (GV Wire/David Taub)
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The second day of a preliminary hearing to determine whether a man accused of pepper spraying pro-Palestinian protesters in Fresno will go to trial was delayed on Friday.

The defense attorney for Brian Turner filed a motion to disqualify Judge Alvin Harrell III.

The motion, known as CCP 170.1, put a halt to the proceedings. Harrell set a May 26 date for a status conference on the motion.

Turner’s attorney, Marc Kapetan, would not explain his reasoning for the motion to GV Wire. The motion was not yet available on the court website as of Friday afternoon.

At Thursday’s hearing, prosecutor Anthony Muia called four witnesses, the three victims allegedly pepper sprayed, and one police officer.

Three men pulled up to the intersection at Nees and Blackstone avenues on May 18, 2021. They allegedly got into a heated argument over the Palestine-Israel issue with Turner, who was stopped next to them. The incident, they testified, escalated to profanity-laced shouting, one man getting out of his car waving the Palestinian flag, and then Turner pepper spraying them.

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office charged Turner with three counts of illegally using pepper spray, with hate crime enhancements.

Grounds for Disqualifying Judges

According to state code, a judge could be disqualified on several grounds, including — bias or prejudice or a lack of the ability to be impartial; personal knowledge of the facts of the case; or a familial relationship with someone in the case.

Harrell has served as a Fresno County Superior Court judge since 2007. He was recently re-elected for a six-year term in 2022.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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