Judge Hands Out Rulings Stemming from Kessler's Chaotic Press Conference
A Charlottesville court took up four cases stemming from the chaotic press conference held by Jason Kessler. Two were found guilty, one entered an Alford Plea, last case was continued.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville General District Court took up four cases Friday, all stemming from the chaotic press conference held by Unite the Right organizer Jason Eric Kessler.
Kessler had called a press conference outside of Charlottesville City Hall on August 13, one day after the controversial rally at Emancipation Park and the violence that followed it, but was quickly overwhelmed by protesters.
All of the defendants in court Friday, February 2, were facing a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery against the self-described white activist. Thirty-six-year-old Phoebe Stevens had tackled Kessler at the event, while 49-year-old Jeffrey Matthew Winder was accused of punching the rally organizer. Forty-four-year-old Edgar Brandon Collins and 47-year-old Kenneth Robert Litzenberger were accused of hitting and spitting at Kessler, respectively.
Stevens was found guilty Friday, and was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service.
Winder was also found guilty, however the judge suspended the 30-day jail time for him.
"Emotions were very high and I don't blame my client for what he did, and I don't think the police should have either, but in any event that happened," said Jeffrey Fogel, Winder's defense attorney.
Collins entered an Alford plea during Friday's hearing, meaning he admits there is enough evidence to convict him without pleading guilty. He was sentenced to 10 days behind bars, but with all that time suspended.
The court is set to review Litzenberger's case in February 2019. His charge will be dropped if he remains in good behavior for the year.
Fogel believes none of the defendants should have been arrested.
"I think it's a question the police department has to answer to. Let's remember, in each instance, police departments have discretion to arrest and charge people," said the attorney.
Kessler was confronted by a small crowd of protesters after the court hearing. Some of them told NBC29 that they were "heartbroken" following the hearing, and several said the judge made the wrong call.