In the second trial of the week for the brutal August 12 attack on DeAndre Harris, a jury deliberated 35 minutes before entering a second guilty verdict May 3 for an out-of-towner here for the Unite the Right rally.
Georgia resident Alex Michael Ramos, 34, sat expressionless through most of the two-day trial for his charge of malicious wounding. And in the sparsely filled courtroom, he did not appear to have family members or supporters present, although at closing arguments, Hannah Zarski, the woman whose offer to house Ramos a judge rebuffed during a bond hearing, showed up, and Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler sat in a back corner for most of the trial.
Even for those who have seen videos before of the beatdown in the Market Street Parking Garage, it was hard to watch, and a couple of the jurors glared at Ramos after they were shown footage of him, clad in a red Make America Great Again baseball cap and white wifebeater, run into the garage and throw a punch at Harris, who already was on the ground and being beaten by four other men.
For Harris, 20, his testimony May 2 made the third day in a row he took the stand. He previously testified April 30 and May 1 in the malicious wounding trial of Jacob Goodwin, 23, who came from Ward, Arkansas, to take part in the rally. A jury found Goodwin guilty, and two other men charged in the attack—Daniel Borden and Tyler “Boonie Hat” Davis—have trials this summer.
Harris, a teacher’s aide who worked last summer as a YMCA camp counselor, described going to the Unite the Right rally with his brother and several others that he didn’t really know, including Corey Long.
A girl dressed in black gave him a mask, and a man gave him a Maglite, he said.
After the rally in Emancipation Park was declared an unlawful assembly and the white supremacists and neo-Nazis were funneled on to Market Street where counterprotesters were massed, Harris and his party walked east on Market trading barbs with the ralliers.
Harris said he was in front of his group when he turned and saw what appeared to him to be “an alt-right guy driving his flag into Corey.”
What Harris didn’t see, said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina Antony, was Long run up to League of the South member Harry Crews and attempt to grab his flag.
“I ran up with the flashlight,” said Harris. “I hit the pole to break up the altercation.” Harris was found not guilty of assault March 16.
He was immediately sprayed with a chemical substance, ran and fell down, he said. “I get up and try to run and I fall again,” he said as jurors watched a video of the incident. “I was just trying to get away.”
Nurse practitioner Evan Pryse treated Harris at Sentara Martha Jefferson after he’d taken a shower for chemical decontamination. Harris had eight staples for the gash in his scalp and had difficulty forming sentences, said Pryse, which he thought could be the result of a concussion.
Harris also suffered a fractured left forearm, which Pryse said is in the medical world is known as a “nightstick injury,” and typically occurs when one raises an arm to block a blow.
Detective Declan Hickey was gathering intelligence from news and social media on the third floor of the Charlottesville Police Department August 12 and saw from a surveillance camera the attack on Harris. A former combat paramedic, Hickey found Harris “covered in blood” and looking confused.
Hickey testified that he started investigating the attack and identified Ramos from social media and working with local law enforcement in Georgia.
“We stomped some ass,” Ramos posted on Facebook. “Getting some was fucking fun.”
Ramos was arrested August 28. During cross examination from Ramos’ attorney, Jake Joyce, Hickey said Ramos seemed remorseful when the detective interviewed him.
Joyce did not call any witnesses, and Judge Rick Moore denied Joyce’s motion to strike the malicious wounding charge. Joyce argued that one punch is not sufficient to establish malice, but Moore said four people were beating Harris on the ground when Ramos joined in. “It really is malice to hit someone on the ground,” said the judge.
“Out in the fresh air and sunshine, he could just have walked away,” said Moore.
In his closing argument, Joyce tried to convince the jury Ramos, who goes by Michael, was not guilty of malicious wounding. “Michael threw one punch. He had no weapon. That is a classic assault and battery.”
But ultimately the jury believed Antony’s story of “a man who joined a violent attack on a defenseless, unarmed man.” She reminded the jurors, “We saw him sprinting toward the garage, so eager to get in, he catapults himself into the fray.”
The jury took a bit longer to come up with a sentence for Ramos than it did in finding him guilty, and returned with a recommendation of six years in prison. Ramos will be sentenced August 23.
At one point during closing arguments, Harris left as Antony was describing the attack and Ramos “winding up” his arm and hitting Harris at the same time white-helmeted Borden slams him with a two-by-four.
Afterward, Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania noted the “emotional toll” the trials and testimony are taking on Harris, but added, “He’s a resilient young man.”