Still guilty: Statue trespassers appeal their sentences, with mixed results

In March 2018, Brian Lambert (left) said he and Christopher Wayne (right) would take their punishment for trespassing and attempting to remove the tarps off the Lee and Jackson statues “like men.” Then they appealed, and all but one of their convictions were upheld. Photo by Eze Amos In March 2018, Brian Lambert (left) said he and Christopher Wayne (right) would take their punishment for trespassing and attempting to remove the tarps off the Lee and Jackson statues “like men.” Then they appealed, and all but one of their convictions were upheld. Photo by Eze Amos

The outspoken Confederates convicted for trying to remove the shrouds that once covered the Lee and Jackson statues downtown were back in court on appeal April 25–and one of them was back to his past courtroom antics.

Christopher Wayne, a 35-year-old from Monterey, was removed from the courtroom, handcuffed, and given an additional 10 days in jail for his bad behavior, which included hurling a pen across the room and screaming, “You can all go fuck yourselves.”

In March 2018, Wayne was found guilty of destruction of property and two counts of trespassing. Judge Joseph Serkes—whom Wayne repeatedly argued with—sentenced him to serve five months in jail, prompting the defendant to spew profanity outside the courtroom, and flash his middle finger at reporters.

During this go-round, in Charlottesville Circuit Court, Wayne continued to make offhanded comments to testifying witnesses, his own attorney, and prosecutor Nina Antony, who asked him to stop multiple times. Judge Rick Moore called it “entirely improper,” but refused to reprimand him in that moment.

“If he thinks he’s helping his case, I’m going to let him do it,” Moore said, noticeably annoyed.

Defense attorney Josh Wheeler, former director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, called two of Wayne’s friends—one who said he met the defendant through “heritage events” and the other through the Virginia Flaggers—to the stand to dispute evidence from another witness, Hank Morrison, who claimed he saw Wayne tampering with the tarp in Market Street Park on February 16.

Morrison recounted seeing Wayne standing inside the orange fencing the city had erected around the Lee statue. He also said it sounded like someone was yanking on the tarp that shrouded Lee as the city mourned the August 12, 2017, death of Heather Heyer.

Wayne and one other person, identified as William Shifflett, began walking away when they noticed Morrison take out his cell phone to call the police, Morrison said. An officer responded almost immediately and stopped Wayne and Shifflett near the park.

But both Shifflett and Wayne’s other friend, Barry Isenhour, who said he drove the men downtown that day for “supper” on the Downtown Mall, testified that they never saw Wayne tamper with the tarp covering the statue.

Wheeler argued that the testimony from Shifflett and Isenhour was as credible as Morrison’s, and the judge agreed.

Moore upheld Wayne’s guilty verdict for trespassing that day, but dismissed the charge for destruction of property, saying the prosecutor didn’t prove without a reasonable doubt that he also tampered with the tarp that night. Though “chances are, he did it,” Moore said.

He also found Wayne guilty of trespassing in Court Square Park on February 23. Detective Declan Hickey testified that he saw Wayne hiding in the park’s bushes after 11pm, when the park is officially closed, which is marked on signs at its entry points.

When Hickey approached Wayne, the officer testified the defendant claimed he didn’t know the park was closed because he can’t read. Added Hickey, “He called me a fat cunt [and] asked how many kids I’d had sex with,” and when he took him to jail, Hickey said Wayne told the magistrate he identified as an “African helicopter.”

This second guilty verdict apparently didn’t sit well with Wayne, who stood, called it “a farce of justice,” and said he was just trying to enjoy his Confederate statues.

“Your statues?” asked Moore of the Monterey man.

Wayne then asserted again that he couldn’t read the “no trespassing” signs.

“I don’t know [I’m trespassing] if I don’t know how to read,” Wayne said. And answered the judge, “I don’t think you know how to think. …Your attitude is horrible.”

Deputies stationed in the courtroom began inching toward the aggravated defendant, which is when he threw his pen and shouted an obscenity as he was being escorted out. Out of view, but within earshot, Wayne was charged with contempt of court. A short physical altercation could be heard as he was being handcuffed.

“Christopher!” exclaimed one of his supporters, who was also clearly frustrated.

“Bring him back in,” said the judge. Moore then added an additional 10 days for bad behavior onto Wayne’s 45-day jail sentence.

“If you want to keep adding to the sentence, I will let you do that,” the judge said, to which Wayne responded, “Great.”

Brian Lambert, who flashed a white power symbol at his last trial was also appealing his statue-related convictions, but, as the judge noted, behaved considerably better than Wayne this time around.

Moore found that Lambert, 50, was still guilty of the two trespassing and two destruction of property charges, but that the sentence Serkes initially imposed of eight months in jail was too harsh.

Even Antony, the prosecutor, said that punishment was “substantially more than what we would ever anticipate, and Moore sentenced Lambert to just 55 days.

The men didn’t have the right to interfere with the shrouds just because they didn’t like them, Moore reminded them. “We are a nation of laws,” he said.

Lambert said he was “embarrassed for the town,” after August 12, 2017, and the tarps “added insult to injury. …In my heart, I really honestly felt like I was doing the right thing.”

Quipped Wheeler, who also represented Lambert, “The road to hell is often paved with good intentions.”

Correction April 30: Josh Wheeler is the former director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, not its current director.