Charges Upheld in Aug. 12 Protester Case, Platania Defends Prosecution

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David Baugh, Blakney's attorney David Baugh, Blakney's attorney
Protesters prompting "drop the charges" on March 8 Protesters prompting "drop the charges" on March 8
Joe Platania (FILE IMAGE) Joe Platania (FILE IMAGE)
Donald Blakney Donald Blakney

Charges are being upheld against a man accused of contributing to the violence at last summer’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. 

 Fifty-one-year-old Donald Blakney is charged with a felony count of malicious wounding for hitting a man in the back of the head with a stick who he believed was associated with the "alt-right" on August 12. 

Judge Robert Downer denied the defense’s motion Thursday, March 8, to reduce the charge from malicious wounding to unlawful wounding.

"American citizens don’t have a sense of justice, but they've got a sense of injustice and a jury can fix it,” said David Baugh, Blakney’s attorney. 

The alleged victim also appeared in court Thursday to testify. 

The Arkansas man says he was in Charlottesville to observe the rally and defend the First Amendment. 

Blakney says he thought the man was affiliated with white supremacists. 

Members of Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) say charges against Blakney should be dropped because resisting violent white supremacy is not a crime. 

"This is a tactic of the white supremacists to not only come to cities and commit violence but also to entrap marginalized people in the criminal justice system," said Ben Doherty, SURJ. 

On March 5, members from SURJ and other activist groups delivered a request to Charlottesville’s commonwealth's attorney, Joseph Platania, to drop the charges against Blakney, as well as two other black men brought up on charges associated with August 12. 

Platania is defending his decision to prosecute criminal cases that have stemmed from Unite the Right rally saying, "Charging decisions and subsequent prosecutions must be undertaken without regard to gender, race, ethnicity, or political ideology."

Here is his full statement on the matter:

"The office (Commonwealth Attorney's office) has received a number of calls and e-mails asking that charges be dropped in three of those cases: Donald Blakney (charged with Malicious Wounding), Deandre Harris (charged with Misdemeanor Assault and Battery), and Corey Long (charged with Misdemeanor Assault and Battery and Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct.) 

Many citizens have powerfully expressed the pain and trauma inflicted upon our community this past summer. Public feedback and engagement is an important part of the justice system and is welcome.  

When allegations are made involving physical violence against another person, this office will endeavor to work with law enforcement to identify, gather, and evaluate all admissible and relevant evidence related to the alleged incident. A decision to charge and prosecute will be made only after careful consideration of that evidence.  

A prosecutor should always strive to apply the law to the facts of each case without bias or favor. Charging decisions and subsequent prosecutions must be undertaken without regard to gender, race, ethnicity, or political ideology. Public safety and confidence in the fair and impartial administration of justice depend upon even-handed accountability for those who violate our laws. 

It has long been a guiding principle of this office that those who perpetrate violence in our community must be held accountable and those who have violence inflicted upon them must be protected. I plan to continue to adhere to that principle and the pending prosecutions referenced above will move forward. I wish to thank the public for their thoughtful and important input. 

Rule 3.6 of the Virginia State Bar's Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys states, in pertinent part: "A lawyer participating in or associated with the… prosecution … of a criminal matter that may be tried to a jury shall not make or participate in making an extrajudicial statement… that the lawyer knows, or should know, will have a substantial likelihood of interfering with the fairness of a trial by jury." As a result, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Charlottesville will have no further comment at this time.  

Please bear in mind that criminal warrants are not evidence of guilt and that each individual who has been charged is presumed to be innocent."