The two young men handed lengthy prison sentences last week for their involvement in the August 12, 2017, brutal parking garage beating of DeAndre Harris sat in stark contrast to one another in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
One’s remorse was hard to miss. Jacob Goodwin, the Arkansas man who can be seen in videos wearing full tactical gear and kicking Harris multiple times as he lay immobile in the Market Street Parking Garage, hung his head for most of his August 23 hearing.
Last summer, a group of white nationalists chased Harris into the parking garage, surrounding him and striking him with their homemade weapons, fists, and feet. They knocked him to the ground at least twice, and continued to beat him as he struggled to get up.
Goodwin had tears in his eyes as Judge Rick Moore handed down a 10-year sentence with two years suspended. He turned to look at his mother, who had collapsed into his father’s lap, and her muffled sobs could be heard throughout the courtroom.
The jury that found Goodwin guilty of malicious wounding in May recommended the 10-year sentence, but suggested that some time be suspended. Prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony, who asked the judge to suspend no more than two years, said the jury didn’t have the benefit of nearly 20 letters from friends and family that were sent on Goodwin’s behalf.
The contents of the letters were not discussed, but they apparently described a different man than the one seen in the August 12 videotapes—a white man with a shield and goggles, who also wore a pin that said “88,” code for “Heil Hitler,” as he beat a bloodied black man at the largest gathering of white supremacists in recent history.
“[This] is probably him on his worst day,” Antony said. “We are dealing with a snapshot of Mr. Goodwin’s life.”
Judge Moore said he hoped so, and called it one of the most “brutal, one-sided beatings” he’d ever seen. As for the good man Goodwin was shown to be in the letters Moore received, the judge said, “How does somebody who’s this person become the person I saw on the video?”
Before Goodwin was told he’d serve eight years, he told the court he didn’t get the chance to apologize during his trial.
“I’m truly, genuinely sorry,” he said. “I can’t even imagine the aftermath of what happened—how this has affected [Harris’] life.”
Antony said Harris declined to submit a victim impact statement.
“He has been working over the past several months on putting this matter behind him,” she said. Echoed the judge, “Mr. Harris may get over his physical injuries. I don’t know that he’ll ever get over his emotional or psychological injuries.”
Later that day, an apology that came from another man who participated in the beating wasn’t as sincere.
Alex Ramos’ face was blank as Moore grappled with how much prison time to impose.
In viral videos, the man who came to the Unite the Right rally from Georgia can be seen wearing a red Make America Great Again hat and a white tank top as he throws one of the last punches in the Market Street Parking Garage melee.
The judge stressed that Ramos didn’t get involved until Harris was already on the ground, and the beating was almost over.
“It’s like he had to interject himself when the person was already beat to pieces,” Moore said. “It’s inhumane.”
He decided on a six-year sentence for Ramos, which the jury recommended when they also found him guilty of malicious wounding in May, and said it was easier to decide in this case than in Goodwin’s or that of Richard Preston, the KKK imperial wizard he sentenced two days prior to four years in prison for firing a gun within 1,000 feet of a school on August 12, 2017 (see article on p. 13).
When Ramos took the witness stand, his defense attorney, Jake Joyce, asked him about a couple of Facebook posts he made after the Unite the Right rally, in which Ramos claimed victory, and said of the beating: “We stomped ass. Getting some was fucking fun.”
“I feel pretty embarrassed about it,” Ramos told the judge.
His attorney also noted the “elephant in the room:” Ramos is Hispanic, and not a white nationalist. Ramos described himself as a “conservative” and said he’s always been “somewhat of an outcast” at right-wing events.
The judge said Ramos fought as if he was trying to prove himself or impress somebody.
As for ganging up on Harris in the parking lot, Ramos said, “I made a wrong judgment call…I feel pretty bad. I kinda wish I could apologize to Mr. Harris.”
When advocating for Ramos to serve the full six-year sentence, Antony said he “might still need some time to think.”
Seemingly changing his demeanor just moments before his official sentence was handed down, Ramos said, “I am really sorry.”
“You can spend the rest of your life thinking about that,” the judge said. “It’s just evil.”