Richmond Times-Dispatch

Kessler denied permit for concealed handgun

- BY TYLER HAMMEL

CHARLOTTES­VILLE— The primary organizer of the Unite the Right white supremacis­t rally in Charlottes­ville in 2017 has been denied a concealed handgun permit.

According to court documents, Kessler filed to obtain the permit in September in Albemarle County Circuit Court.

In October, Albemarle Commonweal­th’s Attorney Jim Hingeley filed an affidavit in opposition to the applicatio­n, citing Kessler’s criminal history and in particular an October 2017 indictment on a felony perjury charge for falsely swearing that he was assaulted.

Though Kessler’s sworn statement resulted in a charge of assault and battery being filed against James Justin Taylor, the charge was later dismissed with prejudice after video evidence came to light showing that Kessler’s account was inaccurate.

Kessler later pleaded guilty to assault and battery against Taylor in Charlottes­ville General District Court and received a 30-day suspended jail sentence and 50 hours of community service.

He was later charged with felony perjury after authoritie­s said he lied to an Albemarle magistrate about the incident, but the charge was dismissed after former Albemarle Commonweal­th’s Attorney Robert Tracci failed to properly establish venue.

Hingeley’s affidavit also cited Kessler’s involvemen­t with the deadly Unite the Right rally. Anti-racism protester Heather Heyer was murdered in a car attack by James Fields.

Hingeley also cited a 2017 article about the assault on Taylor from CBS19 in which Kessler is quoted as saying “Man to man, yell in aman’s face and expect to get punched in the face.”

Also cited is a claim made by Kessler in his own motion to change venue that he is “solely responsibl­e for the Aug. 12 rally,” as well as two other conviction­s for obstructin­g justice and failing to appear.

“It has been shown by his public statements that [Kessler] believes a person’s political views justify the use of violence against them,” Hingeley wrote. “It has been shown by his own statements, publicly filed in a court proceeding, that [Kessler] believes [Heyer] contribute­d to her own killing by a white supremacis­t because ‘she was engaged in an unlawful assembly, blocking a roadway, and jaywalking.’”

Given the “prepondera­nce of the evidence,” the court should conclude that Kessler is likely to use a weapon unlawfully or negligentl­y to harm others, Hingeley wrote.

“It would be intolerabl­e to the citizens of the Commonweal­th for [Kessler] to be granted a concealed handgun permit,” he wrote.

In an order dated

Nov. 5, Albemarle Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins denied Kessler’s permit, citing Hingeley’s affidavit as well as sworn statements made by Nina-Alice

Antony, senior assistant commonweal­th’s attorney for Charlottes­ville, during an earlier case in Charlottes­ville.

Per state code, only a circuit court judge can deny a concealed handgun permit. However, any person denied a permit can file a petition for review to the Court of Appeals within 60 days.

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