FARGO — A Fargo man has pleaded not guilty to a federal charge alleging he caused civil disorder during a May 30 riot in the downtown area.
Errick Steven Toa, 30, appeared Thursday, July 23, in Fargo’s federal courthouse for the charge that carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison. He’s accused of jumping on a police car and smashing the windshield with his foot while officers were inside.
Toa is possibly the first person to face federal prosecution for alleged civil disorder in connection to unrest or rioting in North Dakota, U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley previously said.
State prosecutors have brought criminal cases against 20 other protesters who marched around the metro area in May. Thousands took to the streets to oppose police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
The May 30 protest remained largely peaceful until the afternoon. Some protesters started throwing objects at officers.
Authorities ordered the crowds to disperse several times before deploying tear gas and other less-than-lethal tactics.
Several businesses were damaged, and some officers were injured.
It’s possible others could face federal charges, Wrigley said.
OneFargo leaders, including Wess Philome, have called for charges against Toa and others to be dismissed. They claim former Deputy Chief Todd Osmundson enticed the crowds to riot when he went undercover without permission. He ultimately resigned.
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Philome had asked followers to fill the courtroom and meet outside the federal building ahead of Toa’s hearing.
“It doesn’t seem right to see that young man have his freedom threatened when Osmundson walks free,” Philome said after the hearing.
He and three others sat in court to show support for the defendant, but reporters saw no protesters outside.
When asked about video that appears to show Toa jumping on a squad car, Philome said people need to be held accountable for their actions, but it shouldn’t be one-sided.
“If Osmundson is charged, I would call it equal justice,” he said.
He called federal prosecution an unjust, political ploy. Wrigley said he is not interested in sending messages.
Toa did not answer questions as he left the courthouse. His trial has been set for Sept. 15.