- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A judge has declined to move a perjury case against Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who organized the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, putting him on path to be tried locally this spring despite objections.

Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins punted Tuesday on deciding whether to move the perjury proceedings against Mr. Kessler out of Charlottesville, keeping his case for now in the same city that hosted his deadly “Unite the Right” protest last August.

Mr. Kessler, 34, stands accused of lying in a sworn statement filed with a magistrate judge in January 2017 concerning an altercation that unfolded in downtown Charlottesville roughly seven months before his far-right rally descended into chaos connected to three deaths.

Mr. Kessler initially claimed he was assaulted last Jan. 22 while petitioning for the removal of a local political from the Charlottesville City Council, but investigators later found surveillance camera footage that portrayed Mr. Kessler as the aggressor and subsequently charged him with misdemeanor assault and felony perjury.

The perjury case against Mr. Kessler is currently slated to start March 20 in Albemarle County Circuit Court, but his defense attorney, Mike Hallahan, had hoped to move it elsewhere, citing recent negative media attention, according to court reporters.

Particularly Mr. Hallahan took aim at Charlottesville’s Daily Progress newspaper and said that its articles had “demonized” Mr. Kessler to the point of making it impossible for him to receive a fair trial in town, C-Ville reported following Tuesday’s court hearing.

Prosecuting attorney Robert Tracci countered that the coverage was accurate, however, and that it most anywhere in Virginia would be aware of last year’s far-right rally.

“The court would be hard pressed to find any jurisdiction in the commonwealth not aware of the events of August 11 and August 12,” said Mr. Tracci, C-Ville reported.

Mr. Kessler, on his part, told reporters Tuesday that the press had “already prejudiced a jury pool,” C-Ville reported.

“This media here locally is a [expletive] joke,” Mr. Kessler said outside the courthouse Tuesday, according to the report.

Judge Higgins declined to decide on Mr. Kessler’s request to move the case, but she placed his motion under advisement, reserving herself the right to revise the issue at a later date and issue a ruling if she wants.

Mr. Kessler faces the possibility of up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted on the single count of felony perjury. He previously pleaded guilty to the assault charge and was sentenced in May to 50 hours of community service.

Billed as a rally held in a support of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee slated for removal from downtown Charlottesville, the Unite the Right rally drew thousands of participants and counterprotesters from across the country. Authorities declared a state of emergency on the morning of the event when fights broke out between both sides, and a counterprotester and two law enforcement officers were ultimately killed in connection with the chaos, according to police.

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