An Albemarle County, Virginia, has indicted three men on charges that they carried “tiki torches” in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017.
You got that correct. Nearly six years after the fact, three men were indicted for carrying tiki torches. Not hitting someone with them. Not setting anything on fire. Literally for carrying them.
Prosecutors allege the torch carriers violated a rarely enforced criminal statute, which makes it a crime to burn objects with intent to intimidate, when they marched around the University of Virginia campus on Aug. 11, 2017, while chanting “You will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan “Blood and soil.”
They face up to five years in prison, and because of their association with the “United the Right” rally and not BLM, we can expect they will get the max when they are convicted by a jury in that Biden +30 county.
The story gets better. The former commonwealth’s attorney, Robert Tracci, had reviewed the charges in the aftermath of the “mostly peaceful” demonstration and declined to charge anyone under a 2002 law designed to prevent Virginia’s rampant Ku Klux Klan from scaring the hell out of Black sharecroppers and keeping them in their place…or something (seriously, the last recorded KKK activity in Virginia that constituted a threat to anyone other than the Klan members was in 1966).
This is the law the men allegedly violated.
§ 18.2-423.01. Burning object on property of another or a highway or other public place with intent to intimidate; penalty.
A. Any person who, with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons, burns an object on the private property of another without permission, is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
B. Any person who, with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons, burns an object on a highway or other public place in a manner having a direct tendency to place another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of death or bodily injury is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
This law has been before the Supreme Court and passed constitutional muster…barely. The Justices found specifics of the case — a guy burning a cross on private property — met the definition of intimidation because of the history of cross-burning. In that decision, they struck down the part of the law that made burning the cross itself evidence of intimidation. Instead, the state had to prove that intimidation was the purpose.
The local leftist mobocracy has been pushing for this indictment for quite a while just to make an example of people. This is from a University of Virginia law professor who sounds very much like a majority of law professors when it comes to using the power of the law to punish people they don’t like.
Under Virginia law, it is a felony to burn an object in a public place when that person has the intent to intimidate others and does so in a manner that places others in reasonable fear of bodily injury. UVA’s Lawn and Rotunda are public places, and they are located in Albemarle County.
This means that Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracci has the authority and the responsibility to decide whether Virginia law was broken that night. His ongoing failure to prosecute these cases severely damages the community’s willingness to trust law enforcement generally, and his office specifically….
The events of August 11 were traumatic for many reasons, and the fears of those present were legitimate. As the media has reported, the anti-racist protesters were terrified by the mob, and some were physically injured in the melee.
That trauma was exacerbated by the fact that police did nothing that night to protect people from the torch-bearing mob. As a result, the community’s confidence in law enforcement has been badly shaken. When members of the Rise Above Movement were arrested, FBI Special Agent Adam Lee alluded to this loss of trust when he said that he hoped the arrests would remind “communities like Charlottesville to remember who the good guys are.” Tracci should take immediate steps to show that Albemarle County has zero tolerance for white supremacist violence and intimidation. He should file felony charges under the “burning objects” statute. If he does not, voters should keep Tracci’s record and its message in mind when they head to the polls in November.
In a 2019 op-ed in a local paper, Tracci explained why just carrying a torch probably wasn’t sufficient to send someone to prison.
In a memorandum to then-city manager Maurice Jones, Charlottesville’s prior commonwealth’s attorney declined prosecution under the burning objects statute, stating: “There is a threshold problem with the statute. The statute refers to ‘burn an object.’ The question could arise–and would in criminal law–as to whether carrying a burning torch falls within the definitional scope of burning an object. That alone could prevent a prosecution.” While this memorandum distinguished the May and October torch-lit rallies from the August 11, 2017, rally on UVA Grounds, the “threshold problem” conforming a tiki torch to the burning objects statute presents in all three rallies.
Recognizing these legal deficits in Virginia’s burning objects statute, pages 174-175 of the Heaphy Report urged the General Assembly to: “consider broadening the intent standard for the criminal prohibition on the use of open flames to threaten or intimidate. This [burning objects] statute should be altered to track the language of statutes that proscribe the use of swastikas and burning crosses and include the use of fire with the intent to intimidate.”
Indeed, it was an issue in the 2019 election, and Tracci lost to Jim Hingeley, who promised to indict the torch carriers and received a donation from George Soros’ Justice and Public Safety PAC to make that happen.
Given that the Virginia law only barely survived the Supreme Court because it involved a cross, it is doubtful that a tiki torch will survive. There may be ethnic groups that have historically been intimidated by tiki torches, but I doubt it. Proving that each of the three men carried a torch to intimidate people would seem only to work if it is possible to make the entire march illegal.
As always, they left is very willing to turn the process into punishment. For instance, in Texas, we saw another Soros-backed district attorney prosecute Daniel Perry for murder AFTER the police department investigated the case and ruled his case self-defense (Greg Abbott Takes First Step in Pardoning Man Convicted of Murder for Shooting BLM Protester in Self-Defense). There, the district attorney is accused of tampering with a grand jury witness, and a leftist Austin jury did what the “community” demanded (Motion for Retrial in Daniel Perry Case Alleges Juror Misconduct and Withholding Evidence).
No matter what your opinion of the Unite the Right march, it was a legitimate political act that turned violent because of the actions of “counter-protesters.” Carrying a torch in that rally is not a crime. But that isn’t the point. The men will be arrested. They will spend time in jail. They will be tried and convicted…or bullied into a plea deal because five years in prison awaits if they don’t. Eventually, the convictions will be overturned, but none of that matters because they will have been punished anyway.
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