Update: Perjury Charge Dropped Against Jason Kessler
A jury is being selected in the perjury case for Jason Kessler. The charge stems from Kessler's assault on a person on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall last year.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The perjury case surrounding Jason Kessler has been dismissed after the commonwealth failed to prove the incident happened in Albemarle County.
Jason Eric Kessler, who organized the Unite the Right rally, appeared in Albemarle Circuit Court on Tuesday, March 20.
Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Tracci and defense attorney Mike Hallahan spent several hours shuffling through a pool of 25 potential jurors to find 12 unbiased people to listen to the case.
On Tuesday, the court went into a lunch break around 12:20 p.m. after a jury of 10 men and three women was selected. Two of the men on the jury are Asian, while the rest of the jurors are white.
Kessler allegedly lied on a criminal complaint he had filed with the magistrate at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail last year. Kessler was on the Downtown Mall on January 22, 2017, attempting to get signatures for a petition to have then-Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy removed from office, when he claimed James Justin Taylor assaulted him.
Kessler admitted to punching Taylor, but argued it was in self-defense.
Prosecutors said the incident between Kessler and Taylor was caught on camera, and that "the events described by the complaining witness [Kessler] in his criminal complaint did not happen." That surveillance video was played to the jury Tuesday afternoon.
April 6, Kessler entered a guilty plea in Charlottesville General District Court on a misdemeanor charge of assault. He was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service, and was given a suspended sentence of 30 days in jail.
The commonwealth rested its case around 3:30 p.m., calling a total of five witnesses to the stand: a video analyst, a member of the magistrate's office, the owner of the surveillance camera, a detective with the Albemarle County Police Department, and Taylor.
Kessler had previously sought a judge's approval to leave the area ahead of Tuesday's trial. In October, a judge granted the request, saying that it was unlikely Kessler would find work in central Virginia, and allowed him to move to Ohio.
The defense had also wanted to have the perjury case heard in a different court, citing concerns over finding a fair jury. However, the judge denied that motion back in January.
In the end, the commonwealth couldn't prove the actual incident happened in the county and therefore the case could not move forward.
In response to the judge's decision, Tracci says that he's "disappointed by the court’s ruling in this case, and we are examining potential steps at this time. This defendant is entitled to a presumption of innocence and the same due process under law accorded to all other defendants.”