Courts

No jail time for three convicted of rioting downtown following Jacob Blake shooting

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Three people convicted for their roles in a riot downtown over the Jacob Blake shooting in the summer of 2020 will face no jail time.

Eduardo Baena, Jordan D. Baker, and Erik Galakhov appeared out of custody in a courtroom at the county jail last month, where all three men entered no contest pleas to charges of vandalism, arson, and inciting a riot as part of an offer from the court.

Baker was sentenced to two years of probation with 180 days in a Sheriff’s Work Project. Galakhov was given probation for two years with 90 days in a work project, and Baena has to join a work project for 210 days, along with two years of probation.

Jacob Blake, 29 at the time, was shot seven times during a domestic dispute in the city of Kenosha on Lake Michigan. Prosecutors said Blake began to struggle with responding officers as they attempted to restrain him, pulled taser probes out of his body, and twisted his body towards Officer Rusten Sheskey with a knife in his hand, moving it towards the officer as he began to fire.

The shooting was quickly criticized by activists and members of the public as an excessive use of force, who protested in cities across the country, including Sacramento. The shooting came in a period of heightened tension following the murder of George Floyd, as well as the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a jogger fatally shot in a racially motivated hate crime in South Georgia.

State and federal prosecutors in Wisconsin have both declined to file charges against either Blake or the officer who shot him, Rusten Sheskey, citing the officer’s point of view at the time of the shooting. Blake has since been paralyzed from the waist down and has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.

According to local prosecutors, the group in Sacramento descended on buildings tied to the criminal justice system and effectively hijacked a peaceful demonstration that had occurred earlier in the night. The rioters swiftly moved the needle from picket signs and chants to fire, broken glass, and destruction to property.

The buildings defaced included the County Clerk’s Office, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department, and the District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors said the damages amounted to tens of thousands of dollars – a portion of which Galakhov, Baker, and Baena will have to cover in restitution payments.

Video clips released by the District Attorney’s Office shows a group of approximately 100 people, clad with masks and black clothing, vandalizing the building at 901 G Street. Rioters are seen bashing the windows in, spraying paint over signs, rocks, and a camera, and throwing objects such as bottles and bricks.

In the videos, one man is seen waving a colorful flag, later using the flagpole to bust the glass in the front of the office. That man, prosecutors revealed at a hearing last month, is Eduardo Baena.

“Specifically, as it relates to this defendant, he is seen on video waving a flag, and then uses that to inflict damage on the building,” Deputy District Attorney Andrea Morris said.

Several others are seen sliding what looks like a poster into the lobby of the DA’s Office, briefly setting fire to it after smashing the glass out. Baker, along with protest organizer JaeDa Montgomery, were members of that group. Montgomery, who was profiled by the Sacramento Bee two months before she allegedly participated in the riot, is set to enter a plea next month.

A fourth rioter, a minor at the time, was also arrested. That person’s case in juvenile court is confidential, and prosecutors are unable to disclose any information about it.

DDA Morris and Baker’s public defender, Amy Rogers, bickered over whether Baker should be able to have his cell phone searched as a condition of his probation terms.

Morris said Baker’s cell phone should be able to be searched because he used text and Facebook messages to talk with other people about the riot and invite them to show up. Rogers argued that the cell phone shouldn’t be searched because most people communicate via messages and that there was no discussion of vandalism.

“The fact is, this is just how kids communicate,” Rogers said.

Morris immediately shot back.

“First of all, Mr. Baker is not a child,” she said. “I believe he is late 20s at this point. The fact that this is the way individuals communicate these days, and the way that large crowds gather and inflict this kind of destruction, is exactly why there is a nexus.”

Judge Jon P. Winn ended up siding with Rogers on the cell phone search, saying the concept was invasive and could apply to almost every case.

“It seems like if we start down that road, it appears to be a bit too broad,” Winn said. “It’s an extremely close call, and I’m not going to order an electronic search condition in this case.”

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

    You may also like