Former journalist charged with bias crimes in Portland deemed unfit to stand trial

By Jonathan Levinson (OPB)
May 15, 2023 11:24 p.m.

A man charged with a series of bias crimes in Multnomah County, which include setting fire to a mosque and vandalizing two Jewish synagogues, has been ruled unfit to stand trial.

Michael Bivins was initially evaluated last summer and it was determined he could stand trial. It’s not clear from sealed court records what prompted the reversal but in the intervening months, he sent several letters to the judge presiding over his case. In them, Bivins says God told him that his lawyer is a “grave robbing ghoul” and baby killer. He also wrote that he no longer recognizes the authority of the federal government.

Muslim Community Center of Portland attempted arson

Surveillance video of an attempted arson at the Muslim Community Center of Portland, May 3, 2022.

PPB handout / Portland Police Bureau

Court records indicate Bivins had multiple mental health evaluations and consultations in recent months and on May 11, he was found unfit to stand trial.

Bivins has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of bias crimes, criminal mischief and arson for the May 2022 racist crime spree. Five of the charges are felonies.

Bivins is on video setting fire to the Muslim Community Center of Portland and is alleged to have smashed windows at Congregations Shir Tikvah and Beth Israel and a Black-owned restaurant. He is also charged with vandalizing Beth Israel with anti-Jewish graffiti.

In the years before his racist crime spree, Bivins was a freelance journalist best known for covering street protests and the kinds of extremist views he came to embrace. In the months leading up to his attacks, he posted several anti-Semitic, racist, transphobic and ableist insults online.

He also faces three federal charges of damaging religious property and one charge of threatening someone because of their race, color or national origin.