ESCONDIDO — Escondido American Legion Post Commander Michael Sobczak will soon face a trial to decide his future at the post after social media posts surfaced showing his affiliations to the Proud Boys.
Earlier this month, the Union-Tribune reported that J.B. Clark Post 149 Commander Michael Sobczak was removed from two national leadership roles by the American Legion.
Photos shared on two social media accounts showed Sobczak wearing a Proud Boys jacket and marching with other Proud Boys at a Dec. 12 pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C. which eventually turned violent.
The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Proud Boys as a hate group, and the Anti-Defamation League describes the organization as a gang.
In a separate video shared on a Facebook account under the name “Mick Florio,” Sobczak brags about a physical altercation with an anti-Trump activist during a protest in Yorba Linda in Orange County.
Sobczak has also been linked to a Parler account under the name “Mickey Knuckles.” Parler is a social networking platform similar to Twitter that has a significant user base of political conservatives and right-wing extremists.
John Smartt, the post’s 1st vice commander, directly under Sobczak in the chain of command, told The Coast News that another post member presented charges against Sobczak and that he will soon face a trial to determine if he will, in fact, be removed from his post.
“We are addressing it, we’re not ignoring. It’s something that we feel is very important,” Smartt said. “These are accusations, and they’re pretty serious accusations, so we want to make sure that we afford him his due process, just like any of us would like to be afforded. So no one is going to try to railroad him out of there, we’re going to follow the process, and if it’s deemed that he should be removed, then he’ll be removed.”
Sobczak has been removed from his position as dean of the American Legion College as well as a seat on the national board of the American Legion Riders, however, it is up to the local Escondido post to decide Sobczak’s fate as a post commander.
Smartt said that the trial is a lengthy process that will probably go into April or maybe even May. Sobczak will be up for re-election in May. In the meantime, he is not under suspension.
“He’s still actively engaged in post activities and the business of the post,” Smartt said. “We don’t have a provision in the bylaws to suspend him unless he has done something that has brought physical harm to another member of the post, and while we’ve received a lot of negative attention, we haven’t received anything that warrants an immediate suspension based on the bylaws. If we were to suspend him without due cause, he could appeal it.”
Though Sobczak has been asked to resign by members of the post, he refuses to do so.
The post’s board, which consists of three officers – Smartt, a judge advocate and a disinterested party – will be the ones conducting the trial. However, once the trial is finished, Sobczak has a right to appeal the verdict.
“One person’s actions do not define the entire post. We’re a post full of good people… we want to keep doing good in the community and we hope the community will continue to support us,” Smartt said. “This is a really hard time for us we’ve never had this kind of negative publicity because we haven’t had this kind of behavior.”
Smartt added that no other members have been accused or charged with anything related to this incident.
Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara, a member of the American Legion Escondido post, sent this statement to The Coast News:
“I am, along with almost 900 other veterans, a proud member of Escondido American Legion Post #149. In fact, I am a life member of the Legion and support its values. The actions of our Post commander supporting the Proud Boys are contrary to the values of this country, the Legion and the Escondido community. Actions have been taken to initiate his removal. We were all very disappointed in his course of action and reject it as an acceptable form of civil discourse and disagreement.”
At this time, it is unclear if Sobczak attended or was affiliated with the Jan. 6 insurrection of the Capitol.