Cross complaints: Alleged assailants file charges in Downtown Mall assault case as witness speaks out

The alleged assailants in the December 20 Mall incident have filed complaints against their accusers. Photo: Courteney Stuart The alleged assailants in the December 20 Mall incident have filed complaints against their accusers. Photo: Courteney Stuart

The two men arrested and charged with assault stemming from a December 20 incident on the Downtown Mall have filed complaints against their accusers. Further clouding an already murky situation, a witness to the event has offered her account.

On January 17, nine days after they surrendered to police and were each charged with a misdemeanor, Malcolm J. Stevenson, 25, and Richard B. Spears, who turned 24 on January 18, filed complaints with a magistrate, alleging that they, too, were victims of assault that night at the hands of their alleged victims, Jeanne Doucette and Marc Adams. The two sides in the December 20 incident paint starkly different pictures of their late-night encounter.

Doucette and Adams have described a brutal attack by three men without provocation. But in interviews on the blog and on NBC29 conducted days after their January 8 arrests, Spears and Stevenson claimed that they were victims as well, and they repeat some of those claims in their sworn statements.

“I chuckled and then she started yelling curse words at me,” wrote Spears in the January 17 complaint against Doucette. “She called me a ‘black faggot’ and came charging towards me and shoved me. In the act of self-defense, I hit her.”

In his complaint, Stevenson describes Adams as the aggressor, and says that he got involved in the altercation after attempting to separate Doucette and Spears. Adams “got into my face and yelled things such as ‘motherfucker,’ ‘bitch,’ and ‘nigger,’ as he approached,” he wrote. “I put up my hands to protect myself from his advance, he then got in my face. Once he got in my face he pushed me, at which point, I pushed him as well.”

Citing advice from their attorneys, Doucette and Adams, who both appeared in Charlottesville District Court this week to have a hearing date set, declined to comment on the charges, but in a statement issued after the men first made public statements about the incident, they denied the claims.

“We are not bigots of any kind,”  they wrote, calling the accusations “painful and frightening.”

Doucette and Adams have maintained that the assault, some of which Doucette says is captured in cellphone photos which she posted online nine days after the incident, was unprovoked and that the men hugged and high fived during the attack. Doucette filed a report with police that night, but Adams refused to give a statement or to accept medical treatment for injuries he has said include a knocked out tooth, cracked ribs and a fractured ankle. He attributed the refusal to blows he received to the head. Doucette has said Adams was knocked unconscious during the altercation, and in a January 8 press conference, Police Chief Tim Longo said two anonymous 911 callers reported an unconscious man on the Mall. Adams went to the hospital for treatment hours after the incident, and filed his own statement with police on December 21.

In the press conference, Police Chief Tim Longo also said there was no suggestion that racial or homophobic slurs had been used by either party.

With everyone involved now charged with a crime, legal experts say the challenge of sorting out what really happened may be even more difficult since defendants can “plead the Fifth” to avoid giving testimony that could be self-incriminating.

“It does make it a nightmare, a headache, when witnesses aren’t willing to testify,” said defense attorney Andrew Sneathern, a former prosecutor who has handled numerous so-called “cross complaints” but is not involved in this case.

Sneathern says that in cases where cross charges are filed, accounts from outside witnesses may offer clarity. Among the witnesses in the case is Tara Pretty, who was out with Spears, Stevenson, and her brother on the Mall at the time of the attack.

Pretty, who lives in New Jersey and was in Charlottesville visiting her brother the week before Christmas, said she was standing some distance away from Spears and Stevenson when the altercation broke out. She didn’t hear the verbal altercation that allegedly sparked the assaults and called the physical portion of the incident “ugly.”

Doucette has described a woman who was at the scene of the incident and who is depicted in several grainy cell phone photos trying to intervene. Pretty said that woman is her.

“I just wanted it to stop,” Pretty said, adding that her brother was not physically involved and that she didn’t see other witnesses or participants at the scene.  “We left as soon as we could,” she said. Pretty’s brother, who is also listed as a witness in court files, did not return C-VILLE’s call.

When Doucette and Adams went public with their version of events in the press, Pretty said she was upset to see any mention of the knockout game, something that landed the initial news account on the Drudge Report and other far right wing websites  and prompted a slew of racist comments on C-VILLE’s website. She said from what she saw, there was no truth to any claim that the incident was the knockout game.

While Doucette declined comment on the charges against her, she stressed that neither she nor Adams ever claimed the attack was the knockout game. She said they wondered about the motivation since Doucette recalled the men hugging and high-fiving during the incident, something she said made it seem to her like a game.

Neither Stevenson nor his court appointed attorney Bonnie Lepold returned C-VILLE’s calls requesting comment. Reached twice by phone, Spears, who does not yet have an attorney, has declined to speak with C-VILLE. He is scheduled to appear in Charlottesville District Court on February 5.

Adams’ attorney David Heilberg declined to comment on the incident, and Doucette’s attorney, Bruce Williamson, did not immediately return C-VILLE’s call.

Sneathern said in a case of he-said, he-said, he-said, she-said, determining the truth will likely be challenging, but noted that all participants are bound by the law when giving testimony or filing an official complaint.

“You are swearing under oath that what you are saying is factual,” said Sneathern. “There may be consequences if you are not telling the truth.”

Doucette, Adams and Stevenson are scheduled for trial in Charlottesville District Court on March 21, and according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina-Alice Antony, Spears’ trial will likely be scheduled for the same day.