Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees, seen here in 2022 across the street from a public protest at the Humboldt County courthouse after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, has faced public scrutiny recently over his provocative demonstrations of support for Israel. | File photo by Andrew Goff.


If the office of District Attorney Stacey Eads winds up pressing charges against any of the 32 people arrested at the recent pro-Palestine demonstration and occupation at Cal Poly Humboldt, Deputy DA Roger Rees won’t be involved in the prosecutions, Eads told the Outpost via email Wednesday.

Rees, a veteran prosecutor who came to the Humboldt County DA’s office from Santa Monica in 2013, has recently faced scrutiny over his public demonstrations of support for Israel. As noted in a story on Redheaded Blackbelt by reporter Ryan Hutson, Rees regularly stands across the street from the Humboldt County Courthouse on Friday afternoons, waving a big Israeli flag in opposition to the crowds of pro-Palestine protesters who gather at the same time.

Rees has sometimes taken a more confrontational, even inflammatory approach. For example, in December he stood among a group of pro-Palestine protesters — whose signs called for a “Free Gaza” and ceasefire — with a sign of his own that read, “RAPE IS OK THEY ARE JEWS” on one side and “CUT OFF BABY HEADS” on the other:


Asked by Hutson to explain the meaning of those phrases, Rees said he was simply articulating beliefs held by the pro-Palestine protesters. When told that the protesters reject those assertions, Rees replied, “They’re lying to you.”

He consistently refers to such protesters as “pro-Hamas,” conflating their support for the people of Palestine with an endorsement of the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel. (Rumors of militants beheading babies, first published by Israeli media, have not been substantiated by either the Israeli government or subsequent news reporting.)

Until recently [actually, it’s still (or back) up], an Israeli flag was hanging from his office on the fourth floor of the courthouse, causing some to questions whether Rees was violating a county policy that prohibits employees from engaging in political activities on county time or premises.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Rees insisted that displaying the Israeli flag is not inherently political. Citing security concerns, he would neither confirm nor deny that the window with the flag was even in his office, but he went on to say that the Israeli flag has been hanging in a public-facing window since May of 2021. 

“It wasn’t a political statement then and it isn’t a political statement now,” Rees said. “It’s just a statement in support of the people of Israel. … And it wasn’t until Hamas decided to invade Israel on October 7 and kill a bunch of people – rape them, behead them, burn them – that then it became an issue.”

Rees said he maintains a strict boundary between his political demonstrations and his work. In fact, when the Outpost first asked him about his political demonstrations, he replied via email, “I do not use my county email to conduct any personal business. Thank you for understanding.”

When he responded to a follow-up inquiry, he did so on his personal cell phone during a lunch break, and when asked questions he deemed work-related, he declined to answer them unless he could call back on his work phone.

As evidence supporting his argument that flags aren’t political — or at least not a violation of county policy — Rees noted that the county displayed the Progress Pride flag on its own flagpoles throughout the month of June. 

Rees said he meets up with fellow supporters of Israel each Friday at noon. 

“We stand there underneath the flagpole on the courthouse steps and we show our support for Israel,” he said. “And every Friday from four to six, when people who support Hamas are out there, I stand opposite them so everybody knows there is a differing viewpoint from what they have to offer.”

Asked if he has any concerns about these demonstrations influencing his ability to prosecute certain cases without an appearance of bias, Rees said, “That [question] is blurring the line again between my work and my personal activities.”

He declined to respond to that question directly while on his personal phone, though he went on to say, “[S]peaking generally, I wouldn’t have any participation in a case [in which] the appearance that I couldn’t be impartial could be called into question.”

Some protesters, including local elementary school teacher Alice Finen, have voiced concerns that Rees’s demonstrations — particularly his sign referring to rape — might have a negative impact on the ability of District Attorney’s Office to fairly prosecute crimes involving sexual assault. 

Asked his thoughts on those concerns, Rees said, “That’s too specific for me to answer when I’m on my personal time and I’m not talking about work.”

Forging ahead, we asked whether public employees have a responsibility, as representatives of the people, to be careful about what they say and do publicly, even on their own time?

“I do hold myself to a higher standard,” Rees replied, “and that’s why I’m out there every opportunity I get to support the people of Israel when there are people out there that would see them killed.”

In her emailed replies to questions, Eads did not explain why she wouldn’t assign Rees to any cases brought against the Cal Poly Humboldt protesters, but Rees said it’s unlikely that he’d be assigned to such cases in the first place since his caseload mostly involves homicides and other serious and/or violent felonies.

What if a suspect of such a crime happened to be of Palestinian descent? Wouldn’t they be justified in asking for Rees to be disqualified?

“If we as prosecutors have a conflict, we will declare that,” he said. “If the defense thinks we do, they’ll file a motion to recuse us, and then a court would review that and if the court thinks that, yes, there’s a conflict, they would relieve the [DA’s] office and the attorney general will be appointed. There are mechanisms in place if any individual defendant felt like he or she was not being treated fairly.”

We suggested that such a hypothetical just goes to show that, in a courtroom, attorneys’ biases — and the supposedly inviolable line between their personal and professional lives — get called into question all the time. Lawyers’ public activities can and do affect court proceedings, right?

Rees replied, “I don’t think mine do, so — .”

On Wednesday, Eads said she has not yet received the investigative reports from law enforcement that will allow her to make charging decisions for those arrested on campus last month.