CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - DeAndre Shakur Harris, a Suffolk-area man accused of assaulting a person following the Unite the Right rally has been found not guilty.

Charlottesville General District Court Judge Robert Downer gave his ruling around 12: 40 p.m. Friday, March 16. Harris was facing one misdemeanor count of assault.

The commonwealth had argued Harris struck Harold Ray Crews on the back of the head with a flashlight on August 12, 2017. Four men - Jacob Scott Goodwin, Tyler Watkins Davis, Daniel Patrick Borden, and Alex Michael Ramos - are accused of then attacking Harris inside the Market Street Parking Garage.

Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana argued Harris did not hit Crews, but rather the defendant was trying to strike a flag pole Crews was holding. The attorney said Harris thought Crews was using the pole as a weapon.

Harris took the witness stand, telling the court that he was attempting to break up an altercation between Crews and Corey Long. He said he was trying to break Crew's flagpole with his flashlight.

The court also heard testimony from Crews, who recounted the events has he perceived.

Judge Downer made his ruling based on the fact that the commonwealth could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Harris intended to hit Crews.

Charlottesville police had added extra security measures ahead of Friday’s trial. More than 100 people gathered to offer Harris support both inside and outside the courtroom. Members of activist groups like Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and Black Lives Matter have repeatedly demanded charges be dropped against Harris and other protesters.

"We are utterly delighted and thrilled with this verdict. We are glad that the judge has taken the steps to read the facts and to help heal this community," said Lisa Woolfork.

"He never should have been charged in the first place. So we continue to call on [Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney] Joe Platania to drop the charges against Corey Long and Donald Blakney," Grace Aheron said.

Quagliana spoke to the media following Judge Downer's ruling, saying, "DeAndre is a bright young man with a good future ahead."

Harris’ attorney thanked all those who had gathered to offer their support: "Truly, he wanted me to let you know how much he's appreciated the support he's received in this community," she said.

Supporters for Harris then marched and chanted along the Downtown Mall.

"Charlottesville is safer today because of this verdict," said Woolfork.

Harris still faces charges in Southampton for speeding, transporting a loaded rifle, and possession of a concealed weapon.


03/16/2018 Statement from Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Joseph Platania:

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - Today in the Charlottesville General District Court, Judge Robert H. Downer Jr. heard evidence in the case of Commonwealth v. Deandre Harris.

Mr. Harris was alleged to have struck an individual with a flashlight during the events of the August 12, 2017 Unite the Right Rally in the City of Charlottesville. Before making its ruling, the Court indicated that it carefully reviewed and considered video evidence, witness testimony, and photographs presented during the course of the trial. Applying the law of defense of others to the facts of this particular case, the Court concluded that it could not find Mr. Harris guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office appreciates the Court’s careful review and consideration of the evidence in this case and respects the decision made by Judge Downer.