Update: After arrests, differing accounts of alleged Mall assault surface

Richard Bernard Spears, left, and Malcolm James Stevenson have been charged with misdemeanor assault. Photo: Charlottesville Police Department Richard Bernard Spears, left, and Malcolm James Stevenson have been charged with misdemeanor assault. Photo: Charlottesville Police Department

Charlottesville Police have arrested two men in association with the December 20 assault on the Downtown Mall, and, following the arrests, different accounts of the night have emerged.

Malcolm James Stevenson, 25, and Richard Bernard Spears, 23, surrendered on Wednesday, January 8, according to Police Chief Tim Longo, who announced the arrests at a same-day press conference. Each has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

According to Longo, statements by the accused assailants, the victims, Marc Adams and Jeanne Doucette, and several independent witnesses led police to conclude the assault began as Doucette has previously described, while she and Adams walked east on the Mall from Miller’s toward Rapture at around 1:40am on Friday, December 20.

After Adams fell, Stevenson and Spears, who were standing nearby, “mocked and made fun of him,” said Longo, who described an independent witness’ account of what happened next.

Adams asked the men what they’d said, Longo reported, and “Malcolm Stevenson lifted him up and threw him to the ground.” According to Longo, it was Spears who punched Doucette in the head when she came to Adams’ aid.

There is no evidence that the assault was racially motivated, said Longo, who further noted that no one interviewed during the investigation claimed that either Adams or Doucette made racist or homophobic statements to their assailants.

The assailants, however, have since said otherwise. In an interview with blogger Dave McNair posted on Charlottesvilledtm.com on Sunday, January 12, the pair alleged that after they’d mocked Adams for being intoxicated, Doucette launched a racial and homophobic slur at them before physically striking Spears and threatening to use the media to create trouble for them because of their race.

Stevenson and Spears, who are both gay, insisted they’d been trying to avoid a physical confrontation with Adams, who’d become belligerent. They said it was actually a third man, who Longo said has been interviewed and cleared by police, who delivered a blow to Adams’ face that caused him injury. Spears and Stevenson said that man was unknown to them.

Furthermore, Stevenson and Spears deny they laughed, hugged, or high-fived during the incident, as Doucette has claimed. A photo provided by Doucette appears to show one of the alleged assailants with his arms around another person.

One of the photos Jeanne Doucette says she took during the alleged assault. Photo: Jeanne Doucette

While the Emergency Communications Center told C-VILLE only a single 911 call was placed during the incident, Longo said there were two 911 calls placed, both by parties who refused to give their names but described an unconscious man. Adams, Longo noted, refused to give any statements that night or to have his injuries documented. While Doucette provided an initial report, Adams did not call to add his account to the police report until the next day, Saturday, December 21.

In his press conference last week, Longo also addressed concerns that the department was slow to respond to the report. He said that an investigation did commence immediately and that the patrol officers who’d taken the report had been following up, but acknowledged that the case should have been assigned to a detective earlier. He first saw the file and assigned it to the investigative unit, he said, when he returned to work after the holidays on December 30.

That delay did two things, he said. “One, it created the perception that the department didn’t take the matter seriously, and two, it gave the impression that nothing was being done,” Longo said.

He said a new policy instituted in the wake of the incident requires multiple captains and the investigations commander to review every new report placed in the system daily “to make sure it was assigned properly.”

Stevenson and Spears have been released on their own recognizance and are scheduled to appear in Charlottesville District Court on February 5. Longo said the current misdemeanor charges could be raised to something more serious if Adams provides additional documentation of his injuries. Currently, Longo said, police only have documentation of a lost tooth and soft tissue damage. Adams has provided photos of his injuries and said he has signed paperwork releasing all of his medical records to investigators.

After the story went viral via national aggregators The Drudge Report and Gawker, and the day after publication of McNair’s interview with Stevenson and Spears, whom C-VILLE could not reach for comment, Adams and Doucette issued a statement defending themselves, and decrying what they describe as “slander.”

“We love everyone and did not make the vile comments our attackers and some media are publicizing,” they wrote.

Reached by email after the interview with Spears and Stevenson, Charlottesville Police Lieutenant Ronnie Robertson declined to comment on the discrepancy between accounts.

“Both [sides] will have an opportunity to testify in court about the events that transpired on the morning of December 20,” he said.

(Watch Chief Longo’s full press conference here.)