Two men who were charged with punching two women in the face at unrelated August 12 Unite the Right rally events entered guilty pleas today in Charlottesville General District Court, and one, with a history of assault who was sentenced to eight months in jail, is appealing the conviction.
Dennis Mothersbaugh of North Vernon, Indiana, was seen in a widely circulated video clocking Kendall Bills in the face as the crowd of white supremacists and neo-Nazis dispersed from Emancipation Park. Mothersbaugh, 37, bald with a ginger goatee, came out of the park and swung at a man in a white T-shirt, struck Bills and was ushered out of the area by men carrying League of the South shields.
He was arrested September 28 in Indiana and charged with misdemeanor assault.
In a courtroom filled with Bills supporters, including former congressman Tom Perriello, Linda Perriello, musician Jamie Dyer, Congregate C’ville’s Brittany Caine-Conley and other friends of her philanthropist parents, Michael Bills and Sonjia Smith, Mothersbaugh entered a guilty plea for assaulting her, with the stipulation no further charges be filed.
Earlier in the week on October 30, Bills was in the same courtroom facing a charge of obstructing free passage at the July 8 KKK rally at Justice Park. That charge was dropped for her and for eight other counterprotesters who linked arms to prevent the entrance of the Loyal White Knights into the park.
Bills described being outside Emancipation Park August 12 to take a stand against hate and racism at an event where Mothersbaugh “intended evil.” She said she was “blinded and tumbling backward” when he punched her. Now, with strangers, “my heart races and my mouth goes dry,” and she doesn’t feel safe in her home, she testified.
Mothersbaugh’s attorney, J.D. Beard, asked Bills if she was wearing a mask, and she said no, although the video of the incident shows what looks like a black surgical mask over her mouth. She also testified that she could have been shouting, “Nazis go home.”
While conceding that his client’s behavior was “completely inappropriate,” Beard pointed out that before the assault, people from outside the park had been throwing bottles of urine and feces into the park, as well as using pepper spray.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina Antony told Judge Bob Downer that Mothersbaugh’s “violent, extremely hard punch” to a woman elevates the crime. “This is not even by a long shot his first violence,” she added, tallying five other assaults, some of which had happened in other states.
“This is a pattern of behavior with Mr. Mothersbaugh, who goes to other communities to inflict violence,” with no expectation that anything will happen to him, she said.
Antony asked Downer to send a strong message to those who think they can come here and behave violently with no repercussions. She requested a sentence of 12 months—the maximum for a Class 1 misdemeanor—with six months suspended.
But Downer, who has seen a seemingly unending stream of protesters and counterprotesters through his court from the summer of hate, went even further in demanding accountability. He said the “vicious punch” caused great harm to the victim and to the community, and Charlottesville is now “synonymous with violence and racism.”
He ordered Mothersbaugh to pay a $2,500 fine—again, the maximum for a Class 1 misdemeanor—with $1,000 suspended. And he sentenced Mothersbaugh to 360 days in jail, with 120 suspended, along with anger management classes.
In a statement, Bills says in the three months since “racists were permitted to terrorize our town,” she is the “only survivor who has seen any measure of justice.” She also called upon the city to drop charges against “anti-racist advocates who defended our city.”
Her attorney, David Franzen, and Beard had not returned phone calls about the appeal at press time.
Earlier in court, Jacob L. Smith, 21, from Lousia, pleaded guilty to punching Hill reporter Taylor Lorenz, who was filming on Fourth Street when a Dodge Challenger plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters. Smith screamed at Lorenz to stop filming, according to her video, and then allegedly slugged her and knocked her phone out of her hand.
Downer sentenced him to 270 days, all of which were suspended, and ordered anger management classes and 80 hours of community service.