A judge ruled Friday on three people charged with assaulting white nationalist organizer Jason Kessler as he attempted to hold a press conference last summer a day after his deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
High school teacher Phoebe Stevens, local activist Jeffrey Winder and Public Housing Association of Residents worker Edgar Brandon Collins were each convicted and sentenced in connection with assaulting Mr. Kessler during the Aug. 13 press conference, local media reported following Friday’s hearing in Charlottesville General District Court.
Stevens was ordered to 50 hours of community service, while Winder and Collins each received suspended sentences, the local Daily Progress newspaper reported.
A fourth defendant accused of spitting on Mr. Kessler, Kenneth Robert Litzenberger, had his case moved to next February at the prosecutor’s request, the report said.
Mr. Kessler, 34, sought and received permission from Charlottesville last year to hold a rally on Aug. 12 — “Unite the Right” — billed as a protest to the planned removal of a statue celebrating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The event attracted thousands of participants and protesters from throughout the country, and three people ultimately died as a result of the chaos that ensued, according to police.
Mr. Kessler held a press conference the following day, but was shouted out by protesters and soon mobbed and assaulted, prompting him to flee the area.
Stevens tackled Mr. Kessler during the melee, according to prosecutors. She claimed she was trying to shield Mr. Kessler from the violence, but the court convicted her of misdemeanor assault and battery and sentenced her to 50 hours of community service, C-Ville reported. Winder was caught on camera striking Mr. Kessler afterwards and subsequently convicted of assault and given a suspended sentenced of 30 days, and Collins entered an Alford plea acknowledging prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him, in turn earning a 10-day suspended sentence.
“The judge made the right decisions,” Mr. Kessler told The Washington Times regarding Friday’s ruling.
“The Charlottesville Commonwealth Attorney and police department consistently tried to sabotage the cases by improperly investigating and failing to submit the proper orders,” he added, citing the delay in trying Mr. Litzenberger.
Authorities declared a state of emergency shortly before “Unite the Right” was scheduled to begin last summer, albeit after clashed had erupted between participants and counterprotesters. Heather Heyer, 32, was later killed when an automobile was driven into a crowd of counterprotesters, injuring 19 others, according to police. Two Virginia state troopers, H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke Bates, 40, died in a helicopter crash later that afternoon while monitoring the chaos.
An attorney for Mr. Kessler unsuccessfully argued earlier this week that an unrelated perjury case against his client should be moved out of Charlottesville, citing negative media attention received after his “Unite the Right” rally. Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins punted on the motion to relocate and instead moved forward with starting the case next month as planned.