Crime

Man who threatened SLO Women’s March organizers trolls court at sentencing

A San Luis Obispo man convicted of posting a death threat to SLO Women’s March organizers on Facebook defiantly heckled the court at his sentencing hearing Tuesday, yet dodged more jail time in lieu of anger management treatment.

In court Tuesday, Daniel Phares — who pleaded no contest in October to a misdemeanor charge of making criminal threats — glared at the three women he was convicted of threatening as Superior Court Judge Matthew Guerrero sentenced him to 18 months of formal probation and 10 hours of anger management classes.

As another part of his plea agreement with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, Phares must also relinquish possession of his three registered firearms, including an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, for 10 years.

Phares, 46, faced up to a year in San Luis Obispo County Jail for writing, “I will kill every one of you and make you like it,” on the Facebook page of an August 2017 vigil at Mission Plaza to honor people affected by the violent protests last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to court documents.

Phares, a San Luis Obispo landscaper, must also submit letters of apology to three organizers of the vigil who were victimized by his comments. Phares did not have those letters submitted by Tuesday’s hearing; Guerrero subsequently ordered him to submit them to his probation officer no later than Dec. 27.

PHARES,DANIEL JOSHUA
Daniel Joshua Phares, 45, of San Luis Obispo, was arrested Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, on suspicion of making criminal threats. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office

Phares will not be required to serve more than the two days of jail time already served, though Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle, who prosecuted the case, told Guerrero that the DA’s Office plans to ask for “substantial custody time” should Phares fail to abide by his requirements.

A search of Phares’ Facebook page showed a years-long history of racist and anti-Islamic posts, in addition to strong support for veganism and environmental causes, according to Tribune reports.

A police report shows that Phares told an officer investigating the vigil threat that he deleted the comment shortly after making it.

“You just get annoyed and you post something and then you’re like, man, I shouldn’t have posted that,” Phares told the officer, according to the report.

As Guerrero began Phares’ sentencing proceedings Tuesday, Phares was uncooperative, refusing to initially give yes or no responses, and blurting out indecipherable comments about Marilyn Pharis, a 64-year-old Santa Maria woman whose violent attack in her home in 2015 by two men — one of them an undocumented immigrant — led to her death. The case attracted national media attention and became a talking point for enacting stronger immigration reform.

Given a chance to address the court, Dawn Addis, a Women’s March SLO organizer who first reported Phares’ threat to police, thanked the San Luis Obispo Police Department and DA’s Office for their work on the case.

Addis said that while Phares had the means to carry out his threat, the case isn’t about fear, but rather “the testament of courage to act.”

The incident has caused the activists to have “some difficult conversations” about safety for upcoming events, she added, noting that the victims are not convinced Phares “realizes the harm he’s caused.”

Phares stood feet away as Addis delivered her statement, either glaring directly at her or staring off at the ceiling in the opposite direction, rocking on the heels of his feet.

In his statement, Peuvrelle told Guerrero that he’s been extremely disappointed in Phares’ behavior since the plea, which has included more aggressive trolling comments on social media, including on The Tribune’s articles about his own case.

Peuvrelle asked that Guerrero make clear to Phares that any law enforcement officer may at any time search Phares or his property, and that Phares be required to submit his letters of apology by the end of the month.

As Guerrero listed off Phares’ court requirements, Phares blurted out, “Have we learned the lesson of Andrew Holland yet?”

Asked by Guerrero if he understood the terms of his probation, Phares eventually said, “sure.”

“Is that a yes?” Guerrero asked. Phares only stared back at the judge. Guerrero then asked Jeremy Cutcher, Phares’ public defender, if there were any issues with Phares’ mental competency to understand the proceedings.

“I don’t think so, Your Honor,” Cutcher replied.

Guerrero continued explaining that if Phares is found to be in violation of his probation, he can be booked into County Jail on a “flash incarceration” without a court hearing for up to 10 days.

“Search away,” Phares told Guerrero. “I’m not afraid of being searched.”

Guerrero also approved a protective order barring Phares from communicating — in person or online — with the three victims.

Phares again interrupted Guerrero: “I have no desire to talk to them. I never even met them before — I have no interest in them at all.”

Phares is required to contact his probation officer within 24 hours and must be enrolled in anger management within 7 days.

When asked if he understood and accepted his terms of probation, Phares only told the judge, “Have a nice day.”

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