Rudy Dean Supporters Rally at Rockingham County Courthouse - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Rudy Dean Supporters Rally at Rockingham County Courthouse

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Prosecutors have upgraded the criminal charge against a Rockingham County man who fired his handgun during a road rage incident last year.  But a vocal group of supporters claim he's wrongly accused, and one of them is a former elected official who says she suffered the same fate.

At age 47, Rudolph Dean Jr. faces an aggravated malicious wounding charge and a possible life sentence.  The "Free Rudy Dean" campaign claimed victory in July when he was released on bond.  But his supporters are demanding the case be dropped and they have a surprising ally.

Supporters of Dean gathered outside the Rockingham County courthouse to proclaim his innocence, and demand the release of photos they claim would prove it.  Dean's pastor says he was attacked with a police-style baton known as an asp, classified in some areas as a deadly weapon.

Cindy Carr with Citizens for Rudy Dean said, "There are several states - New York, Pennsylvania, California and the District of Columbia - where they are illegal.  You can't have an asp."

Carr says Dean suffered defensive wounds when Robert Crawford struck him with the baton.  Moments later, Dean pulled a handgun and shot Crawford, ending a road rage incident last January outside Crawford's house near Elkton.  Dean's supporters say Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst is prosecuting him despite strong evidence of self-defense.

"It should outrage every single one of us," Carr said.  "I do not have the answer as to why the commonwealth is ignoring these facts."

One Dean supporter is Rebecca Neal, a former Harrisonburg city treasurer who resigned in 2008 after being accused of embezzlement.  She later pleaded guilty to misuse of public funds, but served no jail time and paid no restitution.

"I regret that I succumbed to the threats of the Commonwealth," Neal said.  "But at the time, I felt that I could not take the chance of losing my family, and not being present in the lives of my children."

Neal claims her case, and Dean's, are both examples of "rogue prosecution."

A short time ago, Garst called to offer this response: "As commonwealth's attorney, every action I have taken has been to assure the safety of our community."

Dean is scheduled for a jury trial next April.

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