Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend
Counts dropped against men accused of damaging statue
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Two activists who were arrested in 2019 on charges of damaging Charlottesville’s statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson pleaded guilty Friday to trespassing and received 30-day suspended sentences.
Jesse Tobias Beard, 45, and Nicolas McCarthyRivera, 32, both of Charlottesville, were arrested at the statue in December 2019 after a series of damages to the Jackson statue. Both have been involved in anti-racism efforts surrounding the aftermath of the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in 2017.
Beard and McCarthyRivera were charged with felony vandalism and misdemeanor trespassing, but the felony charges were dropped per a plea agreement. Both received 30-day sentences, all suspended, and will have to be on good behavior for a year.
On Friday in Charlottesville General District
Court, the charges and evidence were outlined by Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania.
According to Platania, Beard and McCarthyRivera were found at the statue in the early morning of Dec. 20, 2019, after triggering a camera the city police had placed by the statue in the wake of a series of vandalisms.
The statue had been vandalized at least three times since October 2019, when portions of the faces of figures on the statue’s base were chiseled off.
Though the Jackson statue, as well as the nearby statue of fellow Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, have had a significant emotional impact on some in the community, Platania said that it was still against the law to intentionally damage the statues.
“We don’t condone or look the other way if people cause damage to things or cause others pain,” he said.
Platania said the Charlottesville city manager, who is the closest thing to the statues’ owner, was consulted prior to the plea agreement being drafted and did not request restitution for the damage.
The cases had been repeatedly continued because of an ongoing appeal in a separate case spurred by the Charlottesville City Council’s votes to remove the statues, Platania said. However, with a Supreme Court of Virginia ruling earlier this month clearing the way for the city to remove the statues, Platania said his office found it appropriate to wrap up Beard and McCarthy-Rivera’s cases.
The statues of Jackson and Lee remain in two parks in downtown Charlottesville as they await a series of decisions from the City Council about their fate.
Two activists who were arrested in 2019 on charges of damaging Charlottesville’s statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson pleaded guilty Friday to trespassing and received 30-day suspended sentences.