U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

OC Weekly intern Frank Tristan attacked at pro-Trump rally

Incident Details

Date of Incident
March 25, 2017


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

Demonstrators send off white doves from the beach as they protest in support of U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally in Huntington Beach, California, U.S., March 25, 2017. 

— REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
April 4, 2024 - Update

California man sentenced for punching journalist at pro-Trump rally

Tyler Laube, a former member of the white supremacist Rise Above Movement, was sentenced to time served on April 4, 2024, for his assault of OC Weekly journalist Frank Tristan during a March 2017 rally in Huntington Beach, California, according to court filings reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Three OC Weekly journalists — Tristan, who was an intern, and photographers Brian Feinzimer and Julie Leopo — were documenting the 2017 rally in support of then-President Donald Trump, which devolved into violence between attendees and counterprotesters.

A woman approached Leopo yelling “fake news” and repeatedly struck the photographer with an American flag. When Feinzimer attempted to intervene, an unidentified man began assaulting him. Tristan then interceded and drew the man’s attacks.

That’s when Laube became involved in the fray, according to Gustavo Arellano, who was the editor-in-chief of the since-shuttered alternative paper.

“As Tristan was being beat up by someone else, Laube rushed him, grabbed him by the jacket and pummeled his head and face before a black-clad protester pepper-sprayed Laube,” Arellano wrote.

Laube and three others were charged with two felonies in October 2018 for violating the Anti-Riot Act. After initially pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy, Laube successfully withdrew the plea when his co-defendants challenged the constitutionality of the charges and had the indictment dismissed.

The charges were reinstated in 2021, and Laube accepted a plea deal for a misdemeanor charge of interference with a federally protected right without bodily injury. He pleaded guilty to the single charge in October 2023.

On April 4, 2024, Laube was sentenced to time served for the 35 days he spent in pretrial custody, a $2,000 fine and one year of probation.

District Judge Cormac Carney wrote in the sentencing that while Laube was wrong to have punched Tristan, the scene was “chaotic” and it didn’t appear that he intended to single out and target a journalist.

“From Mr. Laube’s perspective, the journalist was dressed like a member of Antifa and was assisting somebody who had harassed a supporter of President Trump, which, wrongfully, led Mr. Laube to punch the journalist,” Carney wrote.

Arellano, now a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, noted that no one else has been charged with assaulting the OC Weekly journalists and that Laube’s lenient treatment by the legal system has infuriated him.

“In an era where too many politicians declare the press the enemy, someone who had palled around with a white supremacist group had gotten away with physically striking a reporter,” Arellano wrote.

March 25, 2017

Frank Tristan, an intern at OC Weekly, was assaulted alongside OC Weekly photographers Julie Leopo and Brian Feinzimer on March 25, 2017, while covering a pro-Donald Trump march in Huntington Beach, California.

As demonstrators attacked Brian Feinzimer, Tristan attempted to intervene and was repeatedly punched by an unidentified assailant.

According to OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano, an officer was asked to pursue the man but refused.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].