Christopher Cantwell, who has been dubbed the “Crying Nazi” by critics of his teary Youtube video made after the August 12 alt-right rally and before he turned himself into police August 24, was denied bond today by a judge who cited a widely seen Vice interview that she said showed Cantwell’s approval of the violence that left local woman Heather Heyer dead.
Wearing a black-and-white jail jumpsuit, with his formerly shaved head sprouting patches of brown hair, Cantwell this morning secured a $25,000 bond for two felony counts of illegal use of tear gas and one felony count of malicious bodily injury by means of a caustic substance stemming from the August 11 tiki-torch rally of hundreds of white nationalists through UVA Grounds.
“A guilty man does not come back and turn himself in,” said his attorney, Elmer Woodard, of Pittsylvania County. “If he was a flight risk, he would have already flighted.”
But Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci, who appealed the decision today in Albemarle Circuit Court before Cantwell’s scheduled release at 4pm, said the alt-right radio show host is a threat to public safety.
He also cited Cantwell’s August 13 interview with Vice News, in which he said Heyer’s murder during the Unite the Right rally was more than justified.
“We’ll fucking kill these people if we have to,” he told reporter Elle Reeve in that interview. When she asked about the next alt-right rally, he said, “It’s going to be really tough to top, but we’re up to the challenge. …I think a lot more people are going to die before we’re done, frankly.”
In circuit court, Cantwell’s mutton-chopped attorney Woodard described his client as a “shock jock,” who made statements about murdering people to the 1,000 or so people who listened to his Radical Agenda podcast without actually intending to kill anyone.
Cantwell said the shock on his show was “race related,” but that he “never advocated that people kill Jews or blacks.”
“Did you shoot, kill or maim anyone before you got out of Charlottesville?” asked Woodard of his client, who listed the four guns he brought with him to Virginia.
Ultimately it wasn’t Cantwell’s weaponry that made Judge Cheryl Higgins decide to deny bond. She said she considered the “characteristics of the person,” and the words he used that “show a certain level of approval of the violence” of the August 11-12 weekend.
She also noted his lack of community ties, despite an offer to live with a local person that Cantwell said he only knew through the Unite the Right rally.
Cantwell’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for November 9.
Also in court this morning was Richard Preston, the Baltimore man charged with firing his gun during the Unite the Right rally. He appeared via video call in Charlottesville General District Court, where he said his family is working to find an attorney to represent him, and he has no other ties to the city.
Also this morning, about 20 people charged with obstructing justice or obstructing free passage during the July 8 Ku Klux Klan rally in Justice Park were scheduled to appear in the same courtroom. All but one case was continued.
Thomas Freeman, a 52 year old Twin Oaks resident, pleaded guilty for locking arms with other protesters in front of the entrance to Justice Park.
“We wanted to make it known that we, citizens of the city, did not want the KKK in the park,” he tearfully told the judge, who imposed a $100 fine, or offered a punishment of 10 days of community service instead.
“We applaud and admire a citizen who stands by his or her principles in a manner such as exhibited today,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman said in a statement. His office will continue to offer defendants of the free passage cases, “in which the citizen willingly submitted to his or her arrest and cooperated with the arrest process,” the opportunity to complete 10 days of community service and have their cases dismissed.
Outside the courthouse, Freeman said he grew up in the ‘70s and remembered his parents driving him over the James River Bridge from Hampton to Smithfield, so he wouldn’t have to swim with kids with different skin tones.
“I feel guilty,” he said. “I am ashamed. …As a white man, I think it’s my job to stand up and say no, you’re not going to do that anymore.”
Freeman had a message to those who look different than him. “We’re with you. We have your back. We’re not going to allow people who look like me to beat on you.”
—With additional reporting by Lisa Provence
Updated at 8:06pm with the results of Cantwell’s bond hearing.
Updated September 1 at 10am with comments from Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman.