WANTED: An attorney for Kessler

Jason Kessler dodges the media stationed outside the courthouse. Staff photo Jason Kessler dodges the media stationed outside the courthouse. Staff photo

 

Jason Kessler appeared in Charlottesville General District Court today for a disorderly conduct charge related to his presence in Lee Park last Sunday, when he allegedly disobeyed officers’ commands to leave the park and incited the crowd with a bullhorn. The right-wing blogger told the judge he’s having trouble finding an attorney to represent him.

“It’s been a little hard for political reasons to find one here in Charlottesville,” he said. “My friend’s been through the whole phone book.”

When he declined to comment outside the courtroom, a witness who saw Kessler’s behavior in the park stepped up.

Pam Starsia, a local attorney and organizer with Showing Up for Racial Justice, says she saw a woman of color “violently thrown to the ground in full view of Charlottesville police, one of whom told her directly that he saw Jason Kessler assault her.”

She continues, “Jason Kessler walked out of jail three hours later while one of the peaceful protesters sat in jail for nearly a full day. Jason Kessler is now being given a ridiculous disorderly conduct [charge] for his behavior on Sunday, when he should be charged with assault at a bare minimum. This is an absurd situation and shows whose side the criminal system in this community is on.”

His next hearing is scheduled for June 22.

Kessler was convicted of assault for punching Jay Taylor while collecting petition signatures in January to remove Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy from City Council. On May 8, he was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence and 50 hours of community service.

Legal expert Dave Heilberg says that should he be convicted, for purposes of sentencing on the new charge of disorderly conduct, the judge will consider Kessler’s previous record of convictions—and it’ll be a violation of his good behavior. Any new sentence could also carry the original 30 days of suspended jail time on top of it, says Heilberg.

Since this story was originally posted, local attorney Mike Hallahan offered to defend Kessler on Facebook. In 2014, Hallahan defended Randy Taylor, who is serving two life sentences for the murder of Alexis Murphy.

 

Updated May 17 at 3:50pm.

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