In August, it will be one year since the violent, alt-right, white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. where protestors and counter-protestors clashed over the removal of a Confederate statue. That day, law enforcement made several arrests, and a young woman died after being intentionally struck by a car. Today, several attendees of the rally are facing charges for their violent actions.
A member of the KKK, who claims to hold the rank of “imperial wizard” has been convicted for illegally firing his gun at the rally.
The Washington Post reports:
Richard W. Preston Jr., 53, had planned on going to trial on the gamble that he could possibly persuade a jury that he had acted in defense of himself or others — an argument he made at earlier stages of his case.
But on Tuesday, Preston abandoned that strategy and pleaded no contest to the charge of firing a weapon within 1,000 feet of a school property. After entering his plea, prosecutors laid out the case they would have presented at trial. Immediately afterward, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Moore found Preston guilty.
Preston’s no-contest plea acknowledges that there is enough evidence to convict him without admitting that he committed the crime.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. His attorney, Elmer Woodard, is expected to lobby the judge for a reduced punishment.
Preston’s attorney will argue for a “reduced punishment,” but if Preston does receive the maximum sentence of ten years in prison, along with the $100,000 fine, the public will not bat an eye.
As for the man that Preston claimed he was defending himself from, he’s not off the hook either. The reason the two men are facing justice, thankfully, is because the situation was all caught on camera.
The other man, Corey A. Long, turned an aerosol can into a miniature flamethrower. Long is currently facing misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges.
But doesn’t it seem that being attacked by a mini-flamethrower is a legitimate justification for self-defense? Well, the case wasn’t that simple, and Preston entered the no-contest plea as he knew he wasn’t going to win his case. Based on the evidence, Long shouldn’t either.
Preston had argued at an October court proceeding that he drew his weapon when one man seemed to be on the verge of throwing a newspaper box at him and another looked like he was going to attack him with a large nail-laden stick, according to the Daily Progress newspaper. He said he fired because one of his friends felt threatened after Long turned his aerosol can into a makeshift flamethrower.
On Tuesday, Joseph D. Platania, the Charlottesville commonwealth’s attorney, told the judge that a witness saw Preston point his gun toward the ground beside Long at a 45-degree angle and then heard a gunshot. The witness, Platania told the court, would have testified at trial that the flames from Long’s aerosol can were not close to anyone.
Platania also said prosecutors did not believe anything about the incident would “justify the discharge of a firearm in self-defense.”
When people seek out confrontation, when they intend to cause violence, they deserve whatever the legal ramifications may be. It’s good to see that a year later both of these men will be held accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, many people who were there that day won’t.
Watch the two videos below.
Video of Richard W. Preston firing his weapon at the ground near Long (Warning Graphic Content).
Video of Corey A. Long using his aerosol flamethrower (Warning Strong Language).
The Daily Progress has reported that a judge officially sentenced Richard W. Preston, Jr. on Tuesday. Preston, Jr. received a sentence of “eight years in prison with four years suspended for discharging a firearm with 1,000 feet of The Park School.”
Preston, Jr. was facing a maximum of ten years behind bars.
Judge Richard E. Moore who handed down the sentence, according to the Daily Progress, stated that Preston, Jr.’s actions had nothing to do with personal self-defense and that he did not act in defense of others.
“This whole thing was driven by anger and belligerence, not fear. I don’t find you were saving anyone’s life,” he stated.