Man who attacked journalist during Los Angeles protest gets probation

A 30-year-old man who hit a reporter with a baton during a protest against transgender rights outside a Koreatown spa last year was sentenced to probation on Thursday.

Aaron Kareem Simmons, 30, did not contest a count of assault with a deadly weapon during a court hearing in downtown Los Angeles. Under a plea agreement Simmons reached with prosecutors, Superior Court Judge Kevin Stennis placed Simmons on three years probation. Simmons must also undergo anger management and stay away from the man he attacked.

For memory :

6:49 p.m. February 4, 2022An earlier version of this story stated that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell convicted Simmons. Judge Kevin Stennis sentenced Simmons.

Video of the July 3 protest outside the Wi Spa showed Simmons walking behind Rocky Romano – a freelance journalist who wore a helmet and had the word “PRESS” in bold print on his back – and hit him on the head with a “wood lead baton,” according to a criminal complaint. Last year, Romano told The Times his vision was blurred for about a minute after being hit and he believed he suffered a minor concussion.

Despite the video, Simmons’ attorney, RJ Manuelian, said he did not believe the prosecution case was “overwhelmingly compelling” and would seek to have the case expunged from Simmons’ case. once he had completed the terms of his probation.

Simmons was involved in a number of protests last year between far-right and left-wing groups that turned into street brawls.

A report was made to Beverly Hills police accusing Simmons of beating a counter-protester at a rally supporting President Trump on January 6, 2021. Torrance police also received a report accusing Simmons of attacking prominent left-wing activist Chad Loder, who frequently posts about right-wing violence in Southern California.

sergeant. Mark Ponegalek, a spokesman for the Torrance police, said detectives presented a witness intimidation case against Simmons to city prosecutors last year, but the case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Beverly Hills police did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but previously said they could not identify Simmons from video footage of the attack and had not presented a case to prosecutors.

Manuelian said he believed prosecutors would not have accepted the plea deal if the allegations in both cases were true.

Romano did not appear in court on Thursday. In a victim impact statement he filed in court and shared with The Times, he said he was conflicted over the plea deal and feared he was killed or seriously injured. he had not worn a helmet. He also revived complaints that police were lenient with protesters who supported Trump or opposed vaccination mandates, while arresting hundreds of people at protests supporting left-wing causes throughout the year.

“I don’t know what the correct punishment should have been, but I think it could send the wrong message to Simmons and his group of far-right extremists as well as the activist and journalist communities,” he said. writes Romano. “It’s hard to believe he’ll be at the next event I cover, but one thing’s for sure, I’ll be wearing my helmet.”

The Wi Spa was the scene of several protests last year after a customer took to social media to raise concerns about someone with male genitalia using the female section of the spa in June. The video went viral.

Protesters who objected to the spa’s policy allowing transgender women to use its women’s facilities, which is in line with California law, clashed outside the spa with counter-protesters who said they were there to advocate for transgender rights on several occasions.

The transgender woman at the center of the controversy was charged with multiple counts of indecent exposure in September.