A judge was unswayed hearing testimony from a man who first said he was threatened by the thrower of a C-VILLE Weekly box at the August 12 Unite the Right rally and who then fired his pistol to defend a man who was the target of a homemade flamethrower.
Baltimore resident Richard Wilson Preston Jr., 52, imperial wizard of the Confederate White Knights of the KKK, appeared in Charlottesville General District Court October 12 seeking bond. He was arrested August 26 for discharging a weapon within 1,000 feet of a school after video circulated of him firing the gun at the rally.
Preston was represented by Elmer Woodard, who is also the attorney for other white nationalists arrested in conjunction with the August 12 weekend and were in court October 13—Identity Evropa’s Nathan Damigo, Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute cohort Evan McLaren and JonPaul Struys—as well as Chris Cantwell, aka the “Crying Nazi.”
Originally scheduled for a preliminary hearing, Preston first asked that it be continued, and then changed his mind the Saturday before, according to Woodard. The prosecution objected because Preston’s change of heart came about October 7 on a holiday weekend.
“You can’t have it both ways if you ask for a continuance,” said Judge Bob Downer, who rejected going forward with the preliminary hearing.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania also said he was not prepared for a bond hearing, but Downer agreed to hear testimony at the end of the day from the half dozen Preston Klan supporters who came to vouch that he’d show up in court if released.
Wearing a striped jail jumpsuit and ponytail, Preston told the judge that initially he’d been threatened with a C-VILLE Weekly box and pulled his pistol in that encounter, but the box was tossed in a different direction. Beside him, a man clad in black wearing shorts and a mask had what Preston described as a nail-spiked stick. “He said he was going to kill me,” said Preston. “I pulled my pistol back up and said if he tried that, I’d fucking shoot him.”
Preston’s gun is registered in Baltimore. “There’s no restriction on marching around this beautiful city with a firearm,” said Woodard.
Scott “Woodsy” Woods from Glasgow, Virginia, testified he’d been hit with pepper spray August 12 when a second threat emerged. “I’m right here getting attacked by this guy with a flamethrower,” he said. “I saw this guy flick this thing three times. Then he sprayed it in my face. I felt the heat.”
Said Woods, “Someone fired a shot.” And that’s when the threat stopped, he said.
Culpeper resident Corey Long, 23, identified as the man in the iconic flamethrower photo, turned himself in October 13 and was charged with disorderly conduct and in another August 12 incident, assault. He was released on an unsecured bond.
Woods said he’d been Facebook friends with Preston for about five years, and has met him “two or three times,” the last occasion at a June cookout in Martinsville.
Billy Wayne Snuffer Sr., the imperial wizard of the Rebel Brigade Knights of the True Invisible Empire, which had a gathering in Martinsville in June, came from Buchanan and testified he was prepared to put up $2,500—10 percent of a $25,000 bond, the amount Woodard suggested.
According to Vice, Snuffer was connected to another KKKer—Chris Barker, who organized the July 8 rally in Charlottesville. Snuffer expelled Barker in 2015 for defacing a synagogue in Danville.
Woodard said if released, Preston had friends who would house him in Virginia. “They’ll drag him up here,” he assured the judge. And while Preston didn’t object to electronic monitoring, because his friends live in rural areas, it might not work, said his lawyer.
Downer said it was not the flight risk that worried him. “I do think he’s a danger to others,” he said. That Preston would fire a gun in a crowd of people there to exercise their First Amendment rights, Downer said, was “totally and completely reckless.”
Two other men arrested for felonious assault for the beating of Deandre Harris in the Market Street Garage August 12 also had hearings.
Daniel Borden, the 18-year-old from Mason, Ohio, looked surprised on the video feed from Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail when he learned that his lawyer, Mike Hallahan, was not able to be in court that day and his hearing would be continued to December 14. Borden shook his head.
And Alex Michael Ramos, 33, from Jackson, Georgia, who was denied bond September 25, again was rebuffed because of his lack of ties in this area and the “very violent encounter” with Harris, said prosecutor Nina Antony.
Ramos, she said, was not part of the original gang beating Harris, but came from across the street to join in and punch Harris, who was on the ground.
Once again, Downer expressed his concerns about “someone who strikes someone, who kicks someone when they’re down.”
And Ramos’ non-resident status was another factor. “I’ve had oodles of experience with out-of-state defendants voluntarily coming back,” said Downer, in denying bond.
Ramos, too, will be back in court December 14.
Earlier that day, Harris, 20, turned himself in on a charge of unlawful wounding after League of the South member Harold Ray Crews alleged Harris assaulted him. Harris was released on an unsecured bond.