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Motion to DQ Judge Based on His ‘White Power’ Question

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Judge Alvin Harrell, III (right) gets an up-close view of a video in an alleged pepper-spraying case. (GV Wire/David Taub)
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A judge’s question about whether a defendant made a “White Power” gesture led to a motion to disqualify him from the Fresno County trial.

However, the judge — Judge Alvin Harrell III — says he can remain fair and impartial.

Brian Turner is on trial in Superior Court for a May 18, 2021, incident in which he allegedly pepper-sprayed Palestinian flag-waving protesters at a stoplight.

Prior to the first day of preliminary hearing testimony, the attorneys met in Harrell’s chambers. The judge granted defense attorney Marc Kapetan’s request to suppress photographic evidence that Turner allegedly made a “White Power” hand gesture during the incident, without the prosecution first laying a foundation for such interpretation.

Harrell allegedly asked, upon seeing an image of Turner during the incident, “Is that a White Power symbol?” In his response to the motion, the judge said he “immediately recognized the hand gesture as one that has also been adopted as a white power symbol.”

The judge told prosecutor Anthony Muia that if the allegation was made, the bell cannot be unrung.

Witnesses Testify on Gesture

Despite Harrell’s ruling, witnesses testified that Turner made a hand gesture they interpreted as symbolizing “White Power.” Kapetan objected because of a lack of foundation for the comments. Harrell agreed, and the comments were stricken from the record.

The Kapetan motion said that after another sidebar meeting, Harrell admonished Muia. Harrell confirmed the admonishment in his response.

In another in-chamber discussion at the end of the first day, Harrell allegedly said he believed the gesture was a “White Power” sign, Kapetan’s motion said.

In his response, Harrell acknowledged that he made the comment.

“He (Harrell) believed that the defendant did, in fact, display the white power hand gesture during the confrontation with the alleged victims,” Harrell wrote in his response. “Accordingly, Harrell unequivocally stated he would excise the white power gesture from the ultimate analysis. Harrell has been and will continue to be fair and impartial in this matter.”

Kapetan filed the motion to disqualify the judge at the start of second day of the preliminary hearing.

“Initially, at the chamber discussion, the Court began saying he believed the sign was actually a white power sign. This statement was made, despite the fact that prosecution had not laid any foundation for such findings. To defense counsel, it was shocking, and using the words of this very Court, defense counsel cannot seem to ‘unring that bell.’ The court stated that he would ‘excise it from his mind,’ but the bell has been rung and Defendant and Counsel believe it is grounds for disqualification,” the motion says.

The motion halted Turner’s criminal case. The court reconvenes on May 26 for a status report on the motion to disqualify.

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