Commonwealth Attorney Declining to Prosecute Kessler for May Incident
Jason Kessler is no longer facing a disorderly conduct charge stemming from a May confrontation in Emancipation Park.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A self-described white activist is no longer facing charges from a May confrontation in a Charlottesville park.
Jason Eric Kessler appeared in Charlottesville General District Court Monday, August 21. He was facing a disorderly conduct charge stemming from an incident in Lee Park - now known as Emancipation Park - on Sunday, May 14.
Kessler had shown up at a protest rally against the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the park that day. He was accused of not listening to police officer's commands to leave the park and for using a bullhorn to incite others.
“His message did incite violence, and what it did was cause other people to come and surround him and act violently and aggressively,” Charlottesville Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina-Alice Antony said.
“It was the protesters who didn't like his words who reacted in a way that was violent,” said Michael Hallahan, Kessler’s attorney.
Monday, the court issued a "nolle prosequi," meaning the prosecution is no longer going forward with a suit. Antony said there was not enough evidence that Kessler acted violently to support the disorderly conduct charge.
“Mr. Kessler is a person we have absolutely no respect for, and he is a very troubled person that we do not think fully understands the damage he's caused in this community,” she said.
“Look at the facts, and most of it was on video. The video showed Mr. Kessler being attacked by protesters while he was just speaking,” said Hallahan.
Jordan C. McNeish is accused of spitting on Kessler's face during that rally. He still faces a disorderly conduct charge, though that too may be dropped at a later date.
Kessler organized the Unite the Right rally held at Emancipation Park on Saturday, August 12. The rally was slated to show support for the Lee statue, and had scheduled leaders of the "alt-right" to speak at the event.
Fights and skirmishes broke out between people associated with white supremacists, neo-Nazi groups, "ANTIFA", Black Lives Matter, and other organizations before the rally officially got underway.
Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer died, and 19 people were injured, after a car slammed into a group of protesters in the area of 4th Street and Water Street after the Unite the Right rally. Police have charged 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr. with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit-and-run.
Two women have filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Kessler, Fields, and 28 other defendants in connection to the car attack.
Kessler declined to comment following Monday's court hearing.