SAN ANGELO, TX — (OPINION) Two cases headed for trial are concerning and both are for misdemeanor offenses. It is instructive to understand how these cases were introduced, as we know so far, so voters can know how decisions seem to be made in Chris Taylor’s Tom Green County Attorney’s office. The County Attorney handles the lower-level offenses where most are misdemeanors – driving while intoxicated, simple assault, and petty theft. The cases generally are tried in one of two County Court-At-Law courts.
Political activists on the left and right have long used the local courts and law enforcement to further their agenda. However, the left has perfected the tactics. The way it works is for an activist to find a target, most of the time it's someone with opposing political views, and then aggravate the courts and police until they perform an arrest and, better yet, formally charge the activist’s target in the incident.
In these modern times, the use of internet video is key as it can be used to present one side of the dispute to the public that can enrage followers. Unleashing law enforcement and the courts on political enemies is commonly done in Third World Nations. In the US, we have begun the long spiral downward with, for example, the seemingly specious charges brought against a Republican president time and time again that has culminated in an FBI raid on the now-former president’s residence. Donald Trump will likely run again against the incumbent in 2024. Just the news of the charges or the raid suggest guilt to the general public and can be a decisive way to badly injure one’s opponent’s reputation. The Left did the same thing to Governor Rick Perry before his second run for president. Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega is renown for repression against his political opponents. He’s a hero of the Left.
Our county government should be a bastion of defense against this craziness. Instead, it has unwittingly joined leftist activists at the expense of the safety and justice for ordinary law-abiding Tom Green County citizens.
In our Constitution, rights are afforded the accused in the 5th and 6th amendments. The inferred right is that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Defendants also have the right to face his or her accusers and to not be forced to testify against his or herself.
Courts are supposed to be accessible to all. However, anyone who has faced charges who does not have the means to hire an attorney is usually forced into an overworked cadre of public defenders who go through the motions of coping a plea out of their cash-strapped defendants. Oftentimes, just getting charged or indicted is enough to guarantee a criminal record.
One of the victims of our overzealous county attorney, Evan Berryhill, attempted to contact the newly-formed, much ballyhooed public defender’s office for help. Her phone calls went unanswered and her voice mails unreturned.
This is worrisome because for the uninitiated into the Tom Green County Justice System, or for the lower middle class and poor, getting arrested is akin to being convicted.
These two aforementioned cases are for charges of unwanted touching as a hate crime brought forth against Evan Berryhill and assault charges brought against Army veteran Ronnie Wegner. In separate and unrelated incidents, both were the victims of a coordinated online harassment effort to harass and bully them and to coerce law enforcement and prosecutors to arrest them.
Ronnie Wegner was arrested weeks later after confronting a “police auditor” parked in front of his property. The auditor was frequently seen in a beat-up SUV with the words, “F** the Police” emblazoned on the back, around Wegner’s neighborhood. What is more, these sightings where in a Grape Creek neighborhood that Wegner said had experienced a recent crime wave. Halfway through the confrontation, Wegner noticed that the auditor was filming him and instinctively reached for the auditor’s smartphone. The phone, he thought, was a weapon because the resulting video would be used to defame him. For this, he was charged with misdemeanor assault.
The Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office passed on making an arrest at the time of the incident but did take statements from the two sides. After the incident, Wegner was the subject of a series of YouTube videos published by the auditor that can be viewed by all where he was lampooned as the “Gangsta Grandpa.”
Wegner’s eventual arrest ordered by the county attorney fueled the auditor’s zeal to shame and defame Wegner more, where he published another series of YouTube videos. Both releases of multiple videos spurred the auditor's followers to conduct online and phone bullying and harassment of Wegner and his extended family. The auditor’s political agenda is the leftist cry to “defund the police.” Why is Wegner a target? Well, initially, many of the viewers of the auditor’s YouTube videos believed Wegner was a sheriff’s office investigator, culminating in hundred of calls to the SO demanding justice. Facts didn't matter, however. Once the online harassment operation is underway, an ego didn't allow this activist to cease.
We were also harassed online by the enraged cohorts of the auditor with about 30 phone calls, some threatening civil lawsuits and others cussing us out, because we published Wegner’s side of the story.
In the second incident, a woman named Evan Berryhill was confronted by two men in the dark parking lot in front of her own apartment with one of the men filming her with a smartphone. Berryhill and the men proceeded to exchange words with Berryhill calling the two men who lived together “F**ing F**ggots.” That night, San Angelo police responded and diffused the situation and neither of the two men desired to press charges. The next day, after one of the men posted the video from the men’s perspective depicting the confrontation, the video went viral and was picked up by leftist social justice TikTok influencer Danesh Noshirvan (@thatdaneshguy). Noshirvan edited the video for effect and added his own commentary about the incident inciting his 1.3 million followers to demand justice.
Phones at the PD blew up and messages to local media crescendoed demanding someone in local law enforcement and the media get justice for the two men. Police did no arrests at the scene but after a four month investigation by the county attorney’s office, Berryhill was booked for Assault (Physical Contact) Committed Because of Bias/Prejudice. Post-arrest, a new wave of videos and online shaming commenced to celebrate the arrest (and the mug shot). The leftist cause being promoted is demanding public endorsement of the two men’s sexual orientation.
Here is how political operatives manipulate local law enforcement and our local courts:
- Get the content. Find or make a victim who will promote your cause. It’s even better if the victim has a video projecting an alleged wrong. Noshirvan admitted this in a a recent TikTok video that he solicits videos from people who believe a wrong was committed and then he said he acts as the vehicle to get for his clients his own brand of justice. In many of Noshirvan’s videos he finds victims who can be used as pawns to create attacks on people who oppose his leftist political views.
- Produce the content to be damning. Publish a produced version of the aforementioned video. Usually this includes taking the situation out of context or adding more damning information not shown in the video.
- Employ Bot Farms. Purchase video views of your video from a bot farm. Buzz Voice (buzzvoice.com) sells TikTok video views for about $50 per 100,000 views. Noshirvan has 1.3 million followers so he likely does not need to purchase as many as 50,000 views to gain momentum, but from viewing his engagement statistics we believe he does. In addition to views, services like Buzz Voice sell TikTok comments and video shares. You can purchase 500 random comments for $60. TikTok’s algorithm like all social media platforms promotes content (in this case videos) based upon engagement. The more views, likes, comments, and shares, the more likely the video will displayed to more and more users of the app.
- Post the video on multiple platforms. Post the video on instagram, YouTube and Twitter and repeat purchasing engagement from bot farms. (Unfortunately, as of recently, Twitter isn't available to @ThatDaneshGuy. Noshirvan was de-platformed from Twitter for doxxing the US Supreme Court, as reported by YouTube influencer Feud Junkie).
- Harass the target into capitulation. Purchase another chunk of hundreds if not thousands of bot farm comments and instruct them to say vile things about the target of your video. Buzz Voice sells custom comments — that is comments that you author but are posted by other usernames — for $40 per 150 comments. Make the target feel like he or she is under attack, so be merciless with the comments. If the target owns a business, target the business with bad reviews. If the target is employed, harass the employer. If the target rents his or her residence, call the landlord to get the target evicted (this has happened to Berryhill). Threaten to take away the target’s livelihood. Doxx the target’s cell phone number so engaged followers will call or leave voicemails to harass the target. Call the target’s family, friends, employees, and anyone else affiliated with the target. Make the target capitulate.
- Create Confirmation Bias. All of these actions create a confirmation bias that a majority of a community is abhorred by your target’s behavior.
- Harass law enforcement. With confirmation bias, recruit your closest fans to reach out to local law enforcement or the prosecutor. Flood the zone with phone calls demanding the target be arrested. Take to the police Facebook page. Utilize another bot farm campaign if necessary. The police in small communities like ours have likely never experienced such outrage (even though most of the outrage is from outside of town) and will be open to do something to subside the storm. This is exactly how the campaign to change the name of Lee Middle School happened. Outsiders expressed outrage and our local officials took action.
- Harass the local media. Contact the local media. Incite your followers to contact the local media to demand something be done for justice. If local media picks up the story it applies further pressure on local law enforcement to conduct an investigation that will lead to an arrest. After all, if the law believes the people are for it, it encourages them to act to retain public trust. In reality, however, most of the activity is paid traffic from bot farms. If the media does not cooperate, attack the media platform as mercilessly as the target is attacked. We have been attacked mercilessly and personally. We will not capitulate.
- Get the arrest, booking photo, and repeat. Get law enforcement to arrest. If the target is arrested, obtain the booking photo. That serves as new content to rinse and repeat steps 2 through 8 until trial.
Wegner’s online harassment was carried out by a group of “police auditors” on YouTube. We did not see bot farms unleashed but enough controversy was stirred — and angry phone calls made to dispatch — to cause the Sheriff to issue that press release. During the investigation, Wegner said no one investigating ever contacted him for his side of the story until two days prior, but that was only to warn him to hire an attorney and prepare for his pending arrest.
Berryhill, the subject of a few Noshirvan TikTok and Instagram harassment videos, was surprised by her arrest. She said she was not interviewed for her side of the incident by investigators prior to police showing up at her business to arrest her unannounced. She luckily had money on her debit card to pay the bail. After the arrest and mug shot, another series of videos were produced by Noshirvan to further shame her. Berryhill said it was as if the entire harassment campaign restarted at the same intensity as the April harassment campaign consisting of bot farms, harassing phone calls, and online reputation destruction of her business.
The San Angelo Police Department was goaded by the online harassment campaign into conducting an internal affairs investigation of the responding officer for an alleged botched investigation. Videos made by Noshirvan claimed that the responding officer destroyed evidence. We do not know the results of that investigation.
If you listen closely to the source video (the first video above), the two men who confront Berryhill can be heard talking about getting someone they knew on the inside of the San Angelo Police Department to respond to the incident.
At 2:25 into the video, one of the men asked, “Is your mom working tonight?”
After the other man responded that his mom was not working, the man replied, “Well, that’s too bad.”
He was referring to a San Angelo police officer who is one of the men’s mother. The men felt extra entitled to get personalized service from the SAPD assuming a friendly cop (or the mom) would take sides in their confrontation. The question is, how much of this insider treatment from your police can the rest of us expect?
In all, the investigation of the Berryhill case took four months and the only charge was over an unwanted touch. The charge was enhanced because, the county attorney alleges, Berryhill touched the man because of her hatred of homosexuals. No judge facing re-election signed the arrest affidavit. Usually an elected JP signs arrest affidavits. We do not know why retiring Judge Penny Roberts signed off on the arrest. Based upon all of the crime we have covered over the past decade, where justice of the peace judges almost always sign warrants, this seemed unusual.
Meanwhile, back in Grape Creek, Wegner is still in shock that he was arrested.
“The bottom line is this was elevated to the point that it was wrong. If someone looks at you the wrong way or you get into a verbal altercation and no one is hurt is that really something we need to spend money on? I’m definitely not a threat to anyone,” he said.
These political arrests also elevate a small conflict to a point where there is a real chance for violence. Berryhill has received numerous threats to be raped. In Wegner’s case, the confrontation was elevated against a veteran who claimed to be concerned about the safety of his property. If someone driving a beat up SUV adorned with obscenities against police was parked in front of your home, would you take a chance to investigate it knowing what happened to Wegner? Will you instead wait to be harmed?
Wegner said there were four witnesses at his confrontation that were not interviewed by the county attorney’s investigator — himself, his wife, sister and his sister’s friend.
“All this happened right in from of their eyes. They could see Jack wasn’t hurt. His feelings were hurt. He never got out of his car,” Wegner said.
Berryhill feels abandoned by local law enforcement. Even with multiple threats to rape her incoming to her phone, she did not know how to report them. A part of her problem was caused by the same kind of anxiety a battered wife or girlfriend experiences. She was bombarded with so many threats — mostly from bot farms and enraged followers of @ThatDaneshGuy — to harm her and to put her out of business that she tuned it all out. She was so desensitized it made her more vulnerable. She wasn't watching what was happening. Even last week, when she was shown a comment thread then active where her harassers were tracking where she was and announcing when she arrived home, she froze. She did not know what to do. After waiting for that call that never came from the County Public Defender’s office, when she finally reported some of the threats to police that day last week, she had to be assisted by friends.
Had the county attorney’s investigator bothered to interview her as part of the investigation, he likely could have learned this and helped Berryhill. Had Berryhill been any other battered woman, there are county systems in place to assist. Instead, without warning, the county attorney’s investigator had her arrested so that Berryhill endured more online harassment and bullying, this time with the county attorney unknowingly joining her tormentors by providing new content.
These arrests definitely led to more harassment and threats of the targets with mugshots of their targets provided as a bonus for more TikTok content. By falling for the fake, mostly bot-generated online outrage, our county judicial system became an unwilling partner with online doxxers, bullies, and harassers. The punishment is awful and cuts its victims to the bone until there is capitulation. That is where Berryhill was; she had given up.
The 8th amendment to the Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”
If you believe these two citizens with otherwise no criminal records received cruel and unusual punishment at the hands of the county attorney as an unwilling co-conspirator with their attackers, you need to speak up. You or your kids could be the next ones tormented for a silly parking lot confrontation. But this is no longer high school. As frivolous as these charges are, the county attorney can still take away your freedom for this and fail to protect you from real crime against you.
Calling the county attorney will not likely help. Court officers view these challenges to their methods as somehow damaging the judicial process. Yet these two cases are unique and if you believe the charges unjust, citizens must speak up.
Neither case was reviewed by a grand jury of peers.
The fastest way to address this is through the County Commissioners’ Court. This court is the administrative body of the county that determines the county attorney’s annual budget. County Attorney Chris Taylor should be urged to prosecute real crime in the county instead of unwittingly conducting political persecutions on behalf of leftist activists who don’t live here. Until he does, his budget should be cut to afford only one desk and maybe a candle so he can continue his work after it’s dark. I’m told he likely doesn’t work that late, but candles are cheap. Provide him one just in case.
Berryhill and Wegner have been punished enough.
To express your concerns, contact your county commissioner who is currently working on the county’s FY 2023 budget. Please be respectful. One desk and a candle for Chris Taylor until he starts prosecuting real crime.
Precinct 1 (Northeast county)
Commissioner Ralph Hoelscher
Cell: (325) 234-2898
Precinct 2 (Southeast county)
Commissioner Sammy Farmer
Cell: (325) 659-6512
Precinct 3 (Northwest county)
Commissioner Rick Bacon
Cell: (325) 234-4261
Precinct 4 (Southwest county)
Commissioner Bill Ford
Cell: (325) 656-430
Budget hearings are ongoing right now.