Update: Single Charge Against Cantwell from Torch-Lit Rally Moving Forward
An Albemarle County judge is allowing one of three charges against Christopher Cantwell to go forward to a grand jury.
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A judge is allowing one of three charges against the host of the Radical Agenda radio show to go forward to a grand jury.
Additional law enforcement officers were positioned around Charlottesville's Court Square as 36-year-old Christopher Charles Cantwell appeared in Albemarle General District Court Thursday, November 9.
The New Hampshire man had been charged with two counts of illegal use of tear gas and other gases, and one count of malicious bodily injury in connection to the Tiki torch-lit rally at the University of Virginia on Friday, August 11. He had also been scheduled to speak during that Saturday's Unite the Right rally at Emancipation Park.
Rally organizer Jason Kessler was in court Thursday, along with a group of white nationalists dressed in black, and people who oppose them.
The court was going to just take up motions in Cantwell's case, but moved on to calling witnesses to testify as part of a preliminary hearing. The judge heard testimony from Cantwell, people who support him, and counterprotesters from August 11.
Several hundred supporters had gathered at UVA's Nameless Field the night before the controversial rally. The group then marched with torches up the UVA Lawn, past the Rotunda, and met with counterprotesters at the statue of President Thomas Jefferson. Physical fights broke out around the statue: punches were thrown, pushing and shoving, a chemical irritant was sprayed, and some torches were used as weapons.
Police showed up just as the fighting was almost over. Authorities declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, and people cleared out.
The defendant's attorney argued that Cantwell used pepper spray in self defense during the incident at UVA, however the commonwealth claimed he used it maliciously.
The judge is allowing a charge of releasing a caustic agent to be taken up by a grand jury.
The charges of illegal uses of gases maliciously and unlawfully were dropped, because a witness who filed the complaint said he was not sure if Cantwell himself directly pepper sprayed him. The judge said so many people had cans of pepper spray that night that certain attacks could not be directly related to Cantwell.
Activist Emily Gorcenski, one of the witnesses called to testify Thursday, has filed a protective order against Cantwell.
“I have been told there’s a warrant out for my arrest,” he said in the video. “I don't know what to do. I need guidance."
A judge had initially set a bond of $25,000 for the "alt-right" leader during a court hearing the morning of August 31. However, that bond was denied later in the day after the commonwealth successfully argued Cantwell is a flight risk.
Cantwell is being held at Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.