Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

Counts dropped against men accused of damaging statue

- BY TYLER HAMMEL

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.

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