Jeremy Christian trial: Social media, white supremacy

MAX Attack Trial

Trial could go to closing arguments on Tuesday

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A few minutes was all it took in court on Thursday morning for Jeremy Christian’s defense attorneys to rest their case after days of testimony from psychologists and longtime friends.

Then the prosecution began their rebuttal. Three witnesses testified Thursday — a Portland police detective, a prison official and an expert on white supremacy.

The detective walked through her investigation, which included Christian’s social media posts and statements in the immediate aftermath of his arrest. The prison official spoke about his fights and misconduct while he served time for an armed robbery. And the expert on white supremacy concluded Christian holds those beliefs.

Christian, 37, is accused of killing Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche and critically wounding Micah Fletcher on the Green Line train as it arrived at the Hollywood Transit Center.

PPB detective comes back to the stand

The prosecution began their rebuttal by recalling PPB detective Michele Michaels to the stand to testify about Christian’s social media posts.

Michaels methodically read Christian’s posts shortly before the May 26, 2017 MAX attack that attacked Zionists and Jews, praised Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, showed fields of Confederate flags, described himself as a “political nihilist”, talked about free speech, his “Danish Viking ancestors,” encouraged a “vote for Bernie,” called on others to attend a free speech rally at Montavilla, said if he saw a friend who sided with Antifa “it will be merciless,” and showed a later screengrab of Christian at that rally with his hand in an apparent Nazi salute.

PPB Detective Michele Michaels answers a question from Prosecutor Jeffrey Howes in the Jeremy Christian MAX attack trial, February 13, 2020 (KOIN)

In the days before the MAX attack, Christian’s online activity included searches for comic books, local news, weather and a protest of Mayor Ted Wheeler.

PPB Detective answers a question from Defense Attorney Dean Smith in Jeremy Christian’s MAX attack trial, February 13, 2020 (KOIN)

Another cellphone video

Prosecutors were allowed to show cellphone video taken by a woman and TriMet cameras the night before the MAX attack — but after the assault on Demetria Hester.

The video begins around 11:45 p.m., about 16 hours before the MAX attack. Christian can be heard talking and the woman tilts the phone to show the back of his head and profile.

At one point he seems to urge the train to get moving. “Oh looks like we’ve got a Christian or Muslim fu–ing bus driver. I’ll stab you too b—h … move forward MAX driver, fu– you.”

Christian also mentions communists moving into Portland and telling him what he can and can’t say.

Letter to a man in Delaware

The prosecution also introduced a letter from Christian to a man in Delaware that included references about the t-shirt he wore the day of the MAX attack.

This still image taken from cellphone video shows Jeremy Christian (left), Taliesin Namkai-Meche (middle) and Micah Fletcher (right) on May 26, 2017. The image was one of several shown during opening statements of the MAX attack trial, Jan. 28, 2020. (KOIN)

“The ironic thing is that I was wearing a Conan the Barbarian t-shirt that said, ‘What would Conan do’ on it. And I guess they were dying to find out. No pun intended,” the letter said.

Detective Michaels was asked about Christian’s speech while he was in the police car on his way to jail.

She said it was “clear” and even commented on another car — with a bumper sticker that read “Blessed be” — that appeared to be driving erratically.

“Give that motherf—-r a ticket. Blessed be, he needs a ticket,” Christian said.

Michaels testified that told her Christian was “perfectly able” to take in things happening around him.

Under cross-examination, Michaels said Christian may have believed Ricky Best was the survivor. She said she first thought Christian was talking about Fletcher and told him it might take a while for Fletcher to recover.

“Well I don’t know if he (Ricky Best) was involved in trying to assault me or if he just got caught in the middle there, but you know, you can, you can send my apologies you know,” Michaels testified Christian told her. “Because I know he wasn’t the one that I was trying to get. I was just trying to get the person that attacked me.”

Jeremy Christian sits during a break in the MAX attack trial, February 13, 2020 (KOIN)

When asked by the defense, Michaels said Christian told her he didn’t even know there were Muslim girls on the train that day.

The defense also brought up other Facebook posts of Christian’s. Some were shared posts, like a picture of Bernie Sanders and the statement he was introducing a Medicare for all bill. The caption read “Tell Congress it’s time for Medicare for all.” Another was a picture of “black Santa” and said “Share this picture of Black Santa because it will piss off a racist a–hole.” And one featured an image of a Sikh man with the quote, “Before becoming a Muslim, a Sikh, or Christian, let’s become a human first.”

Department of Corrections information

Melissa Nofziger, the Assistant Inspector General for the Oregon Department of Corrections, testified about Christian’s actions in while in prison for the 2002 armed robbery.

Melissa Nofziger, the Assistant Inspector General for the Oregon Department of Corrections, testifies at the Jeremy Christian trial, February 13, 2020 (KOIN)

She said he started numerous fights, including at least two with Hispanic men and said he never requested help with mental health while in prison.

Under cross-examination, Nofziger confirmed Christian mentioned a mental breakdown in 2010 and after he left prison said he believes he’s bipolar — though he’s never been diagnosed and is not medicated.

White supremacy

Pete Simi, a sociology professor at Chapman University and the author of “American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate,” was the last witness on the stand Thursday.

He was asked about his research on white supremacists since 1997 — which involved living with families and going to white supremacist events — and how the Internet/social media has helped it spread.

Pete Simi, a sociology professor at Chapman University and author of “American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate,” testified at the Jeremy Christian trial, February 13, 2020 (KOIN)

Simi reviewed videos, police reports and Facebook posts given to him by prosecutors in preparation for this case.

He pointed out examples of explicit bias like anti-semitism as well as ingroup identification like his focus on Viking history. And Simi said, more importantly in some ways, the “trappings” of white supremacy were demonstrated in his post about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing and references to Balkanization of Aryans, the use of the term “hail victory” and more.

Rees asked if he formed an opinion of whether Jeremy Christian holds white supremacist beliefs.

“Yes he does,” Simi replied.

THE CHARGES AND THE TRIAL

The trial started January 28 at the Multnomah County Courthouse. Witnesses have provided painful first-hand accounts of what happened on the Green Line train at the Hollywood Transit Center on May 26, 2017.

Jeremy Christian has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges: two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault, three counts of second-degree intimidation, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of menacing.

Digital reporter Hannah Ray Lambert covers the Jeremy Christian trial for KOIN 6 News and KOIN.com. Follow her on Twitter for a constantly-updated, minute-by-minute breakdown of the testimony.

Complete KOIN Coverage: The MAX Attack Trial

KOIN 6 News will be in the courtroom each day
and provide updates throughout the case

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