VA Prosecutors Drop Mask-Wearing Charge Against Lobby Day Attendee

The January 20th Lobby Day and rally that brought tens of thousands of Virginians to the state capitol in Richmond was a peaceful show of support for the Second Amendment and opposition to Gov. Ralph Northam’s gun control agenda. There was only one arrest that day, and it wasn’t for anything violent. 21-year old Mikaela E. Beschler was arrested after police said she refused to remove a bandanna that was over the lower part of her face, but now prosecutors in Richmond are dropping the charges.

Her charge of wearing a mask in public was dismissed Wednesday, according to court records. The state acknowledged it would have been difficult to prove she “had criminal intent to conceal her identity,” Mackenzie Clements, an attorney for Beschler, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

A prior Virginia case allows an exception to the law under certain weather conditions, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin told the newspaper Wednesday. Temperatures were freezing that day and news outlets reported hundreds of gatherers had also covered their faces to avoid the cold. McEachin acknowledged that others “were similarly garbed” and weren’t cited.

A video posted to a social media account under Beschler’s name documented the confrontation with police and showed her complying with their requests. In it, she reveals her face and explains that she was trying to keep warm, The Times-Dispatch said.

Not only does it sound like prosecutors would have had a hard time proving that Beschler had criminal intent to conceal her identity, it sounds like they would have had a tough time proving that she had concealed her identify at all, given the fact that there’s video of her showing her face to officers and explaining why her face was covered.

I was there on Lobby Day, and it was one of the coldest mornings of this winter. I was bundled up with a sweat jacket underneath my top coat (classy, I know), and I have a pretty heavy beard to protect my face, but I couldn’t feel my feet after being outside for a half hour or so. I’m not sure how much protection against the cold and wind a bandanna might have given Beschler, but if she complied with the requests by officers it sounds like she shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place, though prosecutors say the officer acted appropriately.

McEachin said that the police officer who arrested Beschler acted appropriately and that the system worked as it should. After a review of the facts of the case, her office decided “it would not have been fair or warranted” to seek a conviction. McEachin acknowledged Wednesday that hundreds of others at the event “were similarly garbed” and faced no repercussions.

Clements said her client is “grateful that the Richmond Police Department treated her with such dignity and respect throughout the arrest process.”

I’m glad that Beschler had good things to say about the Richmond Police Department, despite her arrest. I saw nothing but positive interactions between law enforcement and the tens of thousands of Second Amendment supporters on January 20th, and it’s a shame that Beschler’s arrest marred what would have otherwise been a perfect day. Thankfully, the felony charge hanging over her head has been dismissed. Unfortunately, the threat posed by Ralph Northam’s gun control agenda is still very much in play.