A black man who was assaulted by white nationalists during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last August was acquitted on a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery against one of the marchers.
Twenty-year-old DeAndre Harris faced up to a year in prison for hitting Harold Crews, the state chairman of the neo-Confederate group the League of the South, over the head with a flashlight. The incident occurred outside a parking garage, shortly before a brawl between protesters and counterprotesters in the garage, during which Harris was beaten badly by several white supremacists. Harris suffered a spinal injury and a head laceration that required stitches.
Crews brought the charges against Harris two months after the rally, at which point a warrant was issued for his arrest. The charge, originally a felony, was knocked down to a misdemeanor.
Crews (along with legions of right-wingers online) claims that Harris had incited violence by hitting him with the flashlight. But Harris said that he had only struck Crews because Crews had been attacking his friend, Corey Long, with a flagpole.
Charlottesville General District Court Judge Robert Downer Jr. sided with Harris, finding that he had been acting in self-defense.
“I don’t see that Mr. Harris did anything wrong that day,” Downer said. “It’s all on tape for me to see.”
But he had harsh words for both sides of the protest.
“The behavior I’ve seen is appalling,” he said. “I can say this without question — that there was bad behavior all around.”
Four men who assaulted Harris in the garage, including members of Crews’s organization, face trials in the spring.
Cheers broke out in the courtroom when the verdict was read.