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Assault Charge Reversed in Rally-Related Case

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A Charlottesville man had an assault and battery case ruling reversed in his favor on Monday after he filed an appeal with Charlottesville Circuit Court. Joseph Draego, 66, was found not guilty of an assault stemming from a February 2017 political rally at the former Lee Park.

At the time of the assault, Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler was using his phone to live stream a political rally prompted by a visit from Virginia governor candidate Corey Stewart at Lee Park. Stewart was met at the park by a group of protestors.

One protestor, Sara Tansey, admitted to taking Kessler's phone during the rally. According to Tansey, Draego punched her in the face to retrieve the phone.

In October, Draego was ordered to pay a $100 fine for use of excessive force after being found guilty of assault and battery by a judge in Charlottesville General District Court. Tansey had a $50 fine waived by the judge.  In Monday's appeal, a Charlottesville Circuit Court judge reversed the October ruling.

Back in 2016, Draego filed a lawsuit against Charlottesville City Council after it cut him off during a city council meeting in July. Draego voiced concerns over the influx of Muslim refugees, claiming many Muslims are “real good people” but later called them “monstrous maniacs who commit horrible crimes.”

The mayor claimed his comments broke council’s public comment policy. Draego claimed City Council violated his free speech. A judge sided with Draego and granted an injunction that made City Council get rid of its rule that prohibited “defamatory attacks on individuals or groups.” 

Draego declined to comment after Monday's hearing.