Suspects in Black Lives Matter, Back the Blue rally assaults plead not guilty in Nevada County Superior Court |

Suspects in Black Lives Matter, Back the Blue rally assaults plead not guilty in Nevada County Superior Court

Two men who allegedly assaulted demonstrators a day apart at two political rallies on the opposite ends of the political spectrum were arraigned Monday in Nevada County Superior Court.

Jace Samuel Manoguerra, 21, pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon, after he allegedly fired an Airsoft gun at a Back the Blue rally in Grass Valley on Aug. 8.

James Steven Smith, 40, is one of three men charged in connection with an Aug. 9 Black Lives Matter demonstration in Nevada City, but the only one facing a felony. He also pleaded not guilty.

Manoguerra’s attorney, Christopher Dort, noted the publicity surrounding his client’s case and asked for 60 days to review witness statements. Manoguerra will return to court on Dec. 17.

Grass Valley police say Manoguerra shot the Airsoft gun at people attending the Back the Blue gathering, meant to show support for law enforcement, at Neal and South Auburn streets. No one received serious injuries, though several people were struck, including a juvenile.

According to authorities, officers responded and watched a cell phone video someone had taken. With that video, and knowing the time the shooting occurred, they found a van’s license tag number from surveillance cameras. That led them to discover the van was a rental, and ultimately led them to Manoguerra.

Manoguerra claimed no allegiance to a specific group, though police said he very specifically targeted the Back the Blue demonstrators.

Manoguerra posted a $25,000 bail after his arrest.


Smith, who is out of custody on a $100,000 bond, appeared with defense attorney Brian Getz and pleaded not guilty. He is set to return to court for a felony conference on Dec. 3.

After investigators viewed multiple videos of apparent assaults during the hour-long event on Aug. 9, Smith was arrested and charged with one count of assault likely to cause great bodily injury and two counts of robbery. He is alleged to have body slammed one person and thrown him to the ground, as well as having forcibly taken a cell phone from another, Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said at the time of Smith’s arrest.

Smith — whose defenders gathered funds for him after his arrest — has retained Getz, a San Francisco attorney who made headlines last year for successfully defending one of the two men charged with homicide in the Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 people.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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