Two men convicted of assault on black man at Charlottesville rally
Two men who joined in white nationalist violence at last summer’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia were convicted this week in separate jury trials of assaulting a black counter-protester.
Alex Michael Ramos, a former member of a militia group called the Georgia Security Force III%, was convicted Thursday of malicious wounding related to a gang assault on DeAndre Harris inside a Charlottesville garage.
The jury recommended he be sentenced to six years in prison when he’s sentenced in August.
Ramos, 34, of Jackson, Georgia, did not testify in his own defense in the two-day trial, which followed Tuesday’s conviction of Jacob Scott Goodwin, 23, of Ward, Arkansas.
Goodwin, who wore pins celebrating Adolf Hitler and the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party during the assault, also was convicted of malicious wounding.
The jury in Goodwin’s trial recommended he be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Both Goodwin and Ramos, through their attorneys, argued they were merely acting in self-defense – arguments two separate jury panels didn’t buy before deciding beyond a reasonable doubt that the pair acted with criminal intent.
Two other identified, accused assailants in the Harris assault, Daniel Patrick Borden and Tyler Watkins Davis, face separate trials this summer.
The assault, in a garage adjoining the Charlottesville Police Department, was captured on video. They were identified after their photographs were widely circulated on social media by partnerships of various civil rights and community-based groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center.
After the rally, Ramos raged online about the day's events. Later, in a media interview, he said he’s of Puerto Rican ancestry and claimed he isn’t a racist, but a “conservative” who merely went to Charlottesville to participate in a free-speech rally.
That’s the same excuse Unite the Right protagonists Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer gave for the event, which turned out to be the largest gathering in years of white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, League of the South and militia activists.
Goodwin wore a military helmet and carried a large shield during the attack on Harris, captured on video in a parking garage next to the Charlottesville Police Department. A social media manhunt is still underway to identify others involved.
After authorities attempted to sort out what happened, Harris was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery against one of the white supremacists, but he was acquitted of those charges in March.
The 20-year-old victim, a special education instructional assistant, suffered a spinal injury, a broken arm and head lacerations in the assault that came during the now notorious rally.
The racist gathering — the day after a fiery-torch, Ku Klux Klan-style march through the University of Virginia campus — turned deadly when another racist demonstrator drove his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Both juries were faced with the question of whether Goodwin and Ramos came to the rally prepared for violence or to merely exercise their constitutional rights, as defense attorneys argued.
Goodwin wore two pins, one bearing the number “88,” a racist code for “Heil Hitler,” and a second depicting the logo of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a now-defunct white nationalist gang.
“He was outfitted for battle,” Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nina-Alice Antony told the jury in describing Goodwin’s gear. “He’s got large goggles, boots. He’s got a full body shield,” the Washington Post reported.
Goodwin took the stand in his own defense and attempted to convince the jury he acted in self-defense after he saw Harris charging toward him.
“I thought he was a hostile … I was terrified,” Goodwin told the jury from the witness stand.
Goodwin testified that he believed he had only one choice, and that was to kick Harris four times as Harris was being pummeled to the garage floor.
Neither the prosecutors nor the defense asked Goodwin about his possible affiliation with any white supremacist groups, the Washington Post reported. But during his closing arguments, Goodwin’s defense attorney Elmer Woodard told the jury: “They want you to convict this man because he’s white, and DeAndre is a black man.”
The prosecutor objected, telling the judge she deliberately avoided raising racial issues during trial.