Self-proclaimed civil rights activist must face trial

Raising bail: Tony Soto must stand trial for gun offenses, aggravated assault and impersonating a police officer. A fundraising page has been created to help pay 10 percent of his $900,000 bail. PHOTO: TONY SOTO / FACEBOOK

If Tony Soto keeps raising money at his current pace, he might have enough to post bail in another 16 years or so. But chances are, his pending criminal case will be long over by then.

Last Friday, Municipal Court Judge Frank T. Brady ordered the self-proclaimed civil rights activist and convicted felon from the Northeast to stand trial for a series of gun offenses, aggravated assault, impersonating a police officer, conspiracy and related charges. Soto remains imprisoned at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in lieu of $900,000 bail.

To secure his release, Soto would have to post 10 percent of the posted bail amount. To that end, someone set up a fundraising page on his behalf at the website. The stated goal is $90,000. The campaign began on July 7. So far, $802 has been pledged. The campaign is due to expire on Oct. 7.

Previously, a person identifying herself as Soto’s mother created a page to raise bail money, but the website host took the page offline within days.

Prior to his arrest, Soto had been a visible figure in several area anti-police marches. He later garnered widespread attention on social media when he posted a video of Philadelphia police stopping him in his car. The officer claimed that Soto’s car had illegal window tint. Soto claimed that police were harassing him. Soto posted the car-stop video on social media. It garnered hundreds of thousands of views.

Soto’s current criminal troubles stem from a May 18 altercation involving the 30-year-old Soto, his 19-year-old companion, Isabela Mota, and several other people behind Soto’s home on the 6200 block of Castor Ave. According to police, it stemmed from a parking dispute.

Another man parked his car temporarily in a common driveway. When he returned to the vehicle, Soto’s own car had been moved to block his exit from the driveway. The motorist asked Soto to move his car, police say, but Soto refused, identified himself as a police officer and threatened to have the other car impounded.

Soto is not a cop, although he has been arrested twice before and convicted once of impersonating a public servant.

Witnessing the argument, the motorist’s sister called her fiance, who is a real cop. When he arrived at the scene, Mota allegedly exited Soto’s house with a gun and handed the weapon to Soto. She allegedly called for Soto to shoot the other people.

Soto allegedly tried to hide the gun and flee, but police arrested him after a short foot pursuit.

On Friday, Mota was also ordered to stand trial for conspiracy, solicitation of aggravated assault, firearms offenses and related charges. Mota is free after posting $12,500 toward $275,000 bail. Both defendants will be arraigned in Common Pleas Court on Sept. 9. ••