Three out-of-towners who were charged following the August 12 Unite the Right rally were in court December 14 for preliminary hearings, where a judge determined there was probable cause to seek grand jury indictments.
Baltimore resident and Confederate White Knights of the KKK imperial wizard Richard Preston, 52, is charged with shooting a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school. Alex Michael Ramos, 34, from Jackson, Georgia, is charged with felonious assault, and Jacob Scott Goodwin, 23, from Ward, Arkansas, is charged with malicious wounding, both in the Market Street Garage beating of Deandre Harris.
The three men were in court the same day as the hearing for James Fields, the man accused of killing Heather Heyer when he drove into a crowd. The judge ordered increased security in the courtroom, and he warned that anyone making noise would be removed.
Fellow KKKers, including Billy Snuffer, imperial wizard of the Rebel Brigade Knights of the True Invisible Empire, showed up in support of Preston.
Preston’s attorney, Elmer Woodard, also represents Goodwin and “Crying Nazi” Chris Cantwell. The Danville attorney, known for his showmanship in his appearances here, was corrected twice on the pronunciation of the name of Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Joe Platania.
Platania called one witness, attorney and former mayor Frank Buck, who was near the corner of Market and Second streets when the rally was declared an unlawful assembly and whites-righters streamed out of Emancipation Park.
Buck testified he saw Preston point his gun at Corey Long, who made a flamethrower from an aerosol can. “I heard the gun discharge,” he said, and he saw a puff in the mulch near Long’s feet.
He followed Preston at a distance, and then filed a complaint with a magistrate. “He fired a handgun in the midst of people,” said Buck. “That struck me as an unlawful discharge.”
Woodard, who brought an aerosol can that he shook in court, asked Buck why he didn’t file a complaint against Long.
At that point, Judge Bob Downer interrupted the attorney. “All we’re here for today is to determine whether a firearm was unlawfully fired within 1,000 feet of a school. You seem to quibble about the distance of the flamethrower.”
Widely circulated video shows Preston firing a Ruger SR9 in the direction of Long, who was subpoenaed by Woodard but did not appear in court.
Woodard produced four witnesses who testified Preston saved them from the flamethrower. “There was nowhere to go and I was getting ready to be burned alive,” said Glasgow resident Scott Woods.
Another witness was testifying to the proficiency of Preston’s shooting when Downer interrupted again and reminded the lawyer that the preliminary hearing was only to determine probable cause that Preston fired his gun in the vicinity of Park School.
Despite Woodard’s argument that Preston’s firing was justifiable, that he kept people from being burned and was a “hero,” Downer certified the charge to the grand jury, which indicted him December 18.
Detective Declan Hickey described on the stand his investigation into the beating of Harris, and the identification of some of the men who allegedly took part in that, including Goodwin and Ramos.
Goodwin was arrested October 11, and Hickey pointed him out in a video wearing all black and carrying a shield. Goodwin’s attorney painted a picture of self-defense and said Harris “ran at this man. He had to defend himself.”
Woodard asked the detective why he didn’t arrest another man in the video, who was wearing a brimmed hat and whom Woodard dubbed “Boonie Hat.”
“What’s appalling,” he said, “is that the commonwealth didn’t know Boonie Hat existed.”
He had Goodwin stand up, and the lawyer kneed him in the buttocks, apparently to demonstrate the extent of Goodwin’s involvement, contending, “That’s not malicious wounding.”
Ramos’ attorney, Jake Joyce, argued his client’s involvement in the beating did not rise to malicious wounding. “It might be assault and battery,” he said.
Downer did not buy those arguments, and said under the standard of probable cause, there was enough evidence to certify the charges to the grand jury, which met December 18 and handed down indictments for the two men. As for Boonie Hat, the judge said he hoped police find him.