Eight of the activists who participated in the toppling of a Confederate statue in front of the old courthouse in downtown Durham, N.C., will no longer face felony charges the county district attorney said Thursday.
The activists appeared before District Court Judge Frederick S. Battaglia at a hearing Thursday morning, the Herald-Sun reports. Their cases were continued for a later date, and a trial date has been sent for February 19.
Immediately after the hearing, Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols said, “We won’t try them on the felonies, only the misdemeanors.”
The eight activists are represented by North Carolina Central University law professor Scott Holmes, who also is the supervising attorney of the school’s Civil Litigation Clinic.
Holmes, who had said in November that the felony charges would be dropped, did not have a comment on Thursday’s hearing.
“I prefer to those I represent speak for themselves,” he said.
Originally, twelve people were charged with felonies and accused of participating in a riot with property damage over $1,500 and inciting others to riot with property damage over $1,500. The misdemeanor charges accused them of injury to personal property over $200, injury to real property, and defacing or injuring a public monument.
Now that the felony charges have been dropped, each of the activists now face a new misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to deface real property.
Of the twelve original activists charged in connection with the toppling of the statue, charges against three were dropped in November due to lack of evidence that they participated in the act at all.
A fourth activist took a deferred prosecution agreement on three misdemeanor charges — injury to real property, damage to personal property and defacing a public monument — and in exchange will pay $1,250 in restitution, $180 in court costs and perform 100 hours of community service.
The felony charges would have had to be dropped against the activists, because North Carolina law classifies a riot as a public disturbance involving an assemblage of three or more persons which by disorderly and violent conduct, or the imminent threat of disorderly and violent conduct, results in injury or damage to persons or property or creates a clear and present danger of injury or damage to persons or property.
You have to be able to prove all of those things are true in order to make a felony riot charge stick.
Sheriff’s investigators used video of the toppling to identify those involved and make arrests. Those videos showed that the assembly was not violent, and therefore throws out the idea that there was a riot.
The DA likely knew that when he made the charges in the first place, but you know, grandstanding and what not.
Read more at the Herald-Sun.