Joe Draego was in court today for a charge that he assaulted Showing Up for Racial Justice activist Sara Tansey when he retrieved a phone she allegedly snatched from white-protest organizer Jason Kessler back in February. The hearing in court was pretty routine, but afterward, Draego accused Tansey’s lawyer—commonwealth’s attorney candidate Jeff Fogel—of not acting “in a principled manner” by representing Tansey and yet yelling last week at Miller’s at Kessler, who filed the complaint against Tansey.
Fogel should have recused himself after that, says Draego. “Jeff has called Jason a ‘crybaby.’ The fact he was [at Miller’s] hollering at Jason may have violated ethical standards.” Draego says his lawyer is reviewing the video to see if Fogel acted appropriately and if not, he will ask to have him removed from the case.
In the small world that is Charlottesville, Fogel represented Draego last year when Draego sued City Council for its public comment procedures after he was dragged out of council chambers for calling Muslims “monstrous maniacs.” Draego complimented Fogel for a brief he wrote in the case, and a federal judge ruled council’s rules were unconstitutional. Before the ruling, Fogel asked to be removed as Draego’s attorney.
The hearing today in Charlottesville General District Court was to continue the Draego/Tansey cases until a new special prosecutor can be found. Fluvanna Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip had been assigned that task, but had to step aside after he talked to Tansey without her lawyer.
“The court did not advise him Ms. Tansey was represented by counsel,” said Fogel outside the courthouse.
That’s where Draego chastised Fogel for harassing Kessler while representing a party in the case.
Draego also admonished Fogel for not speaking out against SURJ’s in-your-face tactics, and pointed out that when Kessler associate Caleb Norris got in Fogel’s face last week at Miller’s, Fogel pushed him away, resulting in Fogel being charged with assault.
“Why doesn’t he come out and say no one should do that?” asks Draego.
Fogel, who was endorsed by SURJ, says, “I have seen Kessler going around in that same fashion. I don’t tell my clients what to do.” He adds, “People in SURJ have stood up with principled action for African-American community members.”
Kessler also attended today’s hearing. He was involved in another confrontation with SURJ last night on the Downtown Mall. He says some of his friends were eating at Miller’s and “SURJ mobbed us again. They kept harassing them.” Kessler was banned from Miller’s after last week’s shout fest.
Draego says he will be at the upcoming Ku Klux Klan rally July 8 “to protest them coming here. I stand against racism.”
He suggested he and Fogel do a community response about the KKK coming to Charlottesville, but seemed unconvinced that would happen.
“We can all protest without violence,” says Draego. “That’s how it’s supposed to work.”
Draego and Tansey’s next court date is June 23.