Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, a once-prominent member of the Vancouver-based far-right group Patriot Prayer, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Toese was sentenced to two years of probation, 80 hours of community service and he is required to pay restitution to his victim, Timothy Ledwith, who has medical bills from the assault.
While on probation, Toese is prohibited from contacting Ledwith and he can’t engage in demonstrations or protests.
In October, Toese was arrested at Portland International Airport and booked into Multnomah County Jail on a warrant charging him with two counts of assault, one a felony and the other a misdemeanor stemming from a June 8, 2018 incident that left Ledwith with “stitches and a concussion.”
As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed a felony assault charge.
On Tuesday, security was tight around Judge Kathleen Dailey’s seventh floor courtroom, but what transpired inside was calm. It was dramatically different than a court appearance in October when a defiant and seemingly unapologetic Toese was arraigned surrounded by members of the Proud Boys, another far-right group that has engaged in fights with leftist protesters at Portland demonstrations.
In court Tuesday, Toese wore a blue and purple short sleeve shirt and flip flops.
“I’m not going to say I was wrong; I’m just going to say I apologize,” he said. “Forgive me.”
After court, Toese was asked if he was still a member of the Proud Boys.
“I’m not going to speak on that,” he said. “All I’m going to say is God bless the Proud Boys; God bless everyone of the left; let’s just pray for them. But as for me, I’m Tusitala. No more Tiny. There’s no more big boy Tiny. No more Samoa prowler in the streets; this and that. It’s just Tusitala Toese who I was born and created by God to be.”
Toese was a frequent face at protests between right and left activists that drew national attention to Portland. Those protests regularly featured street fights that Toese would join.
Ledwith, a self-described anti-fascist, spoke in court Tuesday and said he was uncomfortable talking about the full impact the assault had on him. After court, he said he appreciated Toese’s claimed change of heart.
“Up until what he expressed in the courtroom today, I have not seen that from Mr. Toese, so I might be skeptical,” Ledwith said. “But if it is true what he said, that would be a great end to this. I hold a lot of space for people to change and empathy … If the experience has really changed him, then I guess it was worth it.”
In court, the judge said violence is the result of people not having their needs met.
“Everyone of us people walking on this planet have the same needs: love, respect, compassion, nonviolence. These are all needs we share,” Dailey said. “When a need isn’t getting met, your effort is to get your needs met and the strategy used to get those needs met is what’s causing us to all bump up against each other in this world.”
Dailey said her words apply to more than the incident that brought Toese and Ledwith into court.
“This is going on everywhere in the globe today in a way that is traumatic for every one of us,” she said. “You have to ask yourself what your contribution to this is — to this circumstance of our world today.”
The month before that alleged assault, Toese and other Proud Boys members were involved in a similar physical alternation at the Vancouver Mall in Clark County, Washington. Cellphone video shows Toese throwing a teenager to the ground before mall security officers separated them. Charges were never filed in that case.
Donovon Flippo, another Proud Boy member who assaulted Ledwith, pleaded guilty to the attack in July. He also had his charges reduced to a misdemeanor.
Toese’s guilty plea was the third filed this week in Multnomah County court by members of far-right groups. On Monday, two members of Patriot Prayer pleaded guilty to riot charges stemming from a street brawl at a Portland cider bar in May.