Miller’s time: Candidate arrested in mall shout-down

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Jeff Fogel responds to Jason Kessler before the alleged assault of Kessler's buddy.
Eze Amos Jeff Fogel responds to Jason Kessler before the alleged assault of Kessler’s buddy. Eze Amos

Commonwealth’s attorney candidate Jeff Fogel was arrested in the wee hours today when five police cars came to his house following an alleged assault earlier in the evening outside Miller’s on the Downtown Mall.

That was where the latest confrontation between whites-righter Jason Kessler and Showing Up for Racial Justice took place after Kessler dined at the popular venue’s outdoor patio and was spotted by SURJers, who put out an APB for its members.

“White supremacists should not be allowed to move quietly in public spaces,” SURJ member Pam Starsia recently told C-VILLE. And the group has admonished Miller’s for serving white nationalists after Richard Spencer’s tiki-torch procession in Lee Park May 13.

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SURJ members serenade diners at Miller’s with chants like “Nazi go home.” Photo Eze Amos

Fogel says he had been to a candidate event last night and had just gotten home when a friend called and asked him to come observe things at Miller’s, where he dined with City Council candidate Nancy Carpenter. “I had a delicious hamburger and a beer,” he says.

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Jason Kessler, center, airs his grievances to police officers about SURJ members such as Joe Starsia, right. Photo Eze Amos

Kessler was surrounded by SURJ members shouting, “Nazi go home,” and “No fascists, no KKK, no Nazis in the USA,” as he filmed the event. Kessler spotted Fogel dining in front of Miller’s, and chastised him for calling Kessler a “crybaby” in April.

On video, a man with Kessler called Fogel a “communist piece of shit.”

Fogel replied, “What did you say?” and is seen reaching in with his hand toward the man on the video.

“Oh my God, this guy just assaulted my friend,” an elated Kessler says, and he urged his friend to press charges.

Fogel declined to comment on the alleged assault, but he did say he went home and had gone to bed when five police cars and officers showed up at his house at 12:30am. He says he was arrested, rather than given a summons for the misdemeanor charge, because the magistrate told him, “I didn’t like the way you talked to the sergeant.”

Fogel’s client, Veronica Fitzhugh, was arrested in a similar manner the night before with five officers coming to her home for misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and assault and battery, stemming from a May 20 encounter with Kessler on the mall, according to Fogel. His arrest “was just like what happened to Veronica,” says Fogel.

Charlottesville police spokesman Steve Upman did not immediately respond to inquiries from C-VILLE about the show of force in making the night-time arrests, and whether any other arrests would be coming from the scene at Miller’s.

The complaint was filed by Caleb Norris, says Fogel.

It’s unclear how the arrest will impact the Democratic primary for commonwealth’s attorney, where Fogel faces Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania. Platania declined to comment on the arrest of his opponent. In an interview yesterday, Fogel noted that he’d never been arrested.

The first-hand experience of being hauled to the jailhouse was eye-opening for Fogel, who has sued city police for stop-and-frisk records and has made criminal justice reform his platform.

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Attorney Jeff Fogel experiences the other side of the legal system with his early morning arrest. Charlottesville Police

“I never realized how uncomfortable it is to sit in the back of a police car with handcuffs,” he says. “You have to sit forward and there’s no leg room in the back of a cruiser.”

He says, “I’m sure there are people treated much worse than me. I’m a 72-year-old who’s running for commonwealth’s attorney with no record.”

Miller’s did not respond to a request for comment at press time, but the Newplex’s Taylor Cairns reports Kessler was banned for life from Miller’s, and Fogel says Carpenter also was told not to come back.

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Miller’s had more going than John D’Earth’s regular Thursday gig last night. Photo Eze Amos

 

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