Charlottesville man Donald Blakney, who is accused of maliciously wounding an Arkansas resident on August 12, had his charge certified to the grand jury in Charlottesville General District Court on March 8.
Eric Mattson, who testified he’s a member of a Constitutionalist group called the Highwaymen, said he traveled 16 hours to the Unite the Right rally to protect the First Amendment. And in doing so, he said Blakney beat him over the head with a stick so hard that it snapped, and he blacked out for a second.
“My brain rattled,” he told judge Robert Downer. “I was just walking, minding my own business.”
Detective David Stutzman testified that in his interview with Blakney, who wasn’t charged until January, the 51-year-old said he was on his way to the Downtown Mall to panhandle on August 12 when he observed the Unite the Right rally. After being pepper sprayed by someone in a white polo, slapped and called racial slurs, the detective said Blakney admitted to taking his anger out on a man he associated with the white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Mattson said Highwaymen are neutral. In the year that he’s been a member of the organization, he’s been to about 10 similar rallies to support free speech.
He was unarmed and carrying a wooden flagpole with a rolled up American flag when someone attacked him from behind, he testified. He then saw Blakney run off into the crowd, and when he got back to his hotel room that night, he saw footage of himself being socked on the news.
Defense attorney David Baugh argued that his client hit Mattson against the head in the heat of passion, which means it legally can’t be defined as malicious, but the judge declined to lessen the charge to unlawful wounding.
“I don’t know why this is being prosecuted,” Baugh said. “That guy’s a classic Klansman. He’s got the beard, he’s got the look. …He doesn’t know the Constitution from a pack of bubblegum.”
The judge agreed that Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania had ample probable cause for the case to move forward.
Outside the courtroom, members of multiple activist groups encircled an emotional Blakney.
At a rally three days before the hearing, the same groups demanded the prosecutor drop the charges against Blakney and two other African-American men accused of similar crimes on August 12.
The activists say “it is both unjust and unacceptable to criminally prosecute these men for defending themselves and their community against white supremacist terror,” according to a press release.
“It has long been a guiding principle of this office that those who perpetrate violence in our community must be held accountable and those who have violence inflicted upon them must be protected,” Platania said in a statement. “I plan to continue to adhere to that principle and the pending prosecutions referenced above will move forward. I wish to thank the public for their thoughtful and important input.”