ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) –
A New Hampshire man charged in connection to a white nationalist march at the University of Virginia last year is entering a plea deal with the commonwealth.
Albemarle Circuit Court was expected Friday, July 20 to only take up a motion to revoke or modify bond for Christopher Charles Cantwell. However, the Radical Agenda radio host decided to entered a plea agreement to two counts of assault and battery.
Cantwell was facing two felony counts of illegal use of tear gas, which stemmed from clashes between white nationalists and those protesting them around the UVA Rotunda on August 11, 2017. Jason Eric Kessler had listed Cantwell as one of the speakers at his Unite the Right rally, which was to take place the next day at then-Emancipation Park.
The commonwealth said Friday that it had found photographic evidence of Cantwell deploying pepper spray directly into a counter protester’s face. A second counter protester was indirectly hit by that pepper spray.
The judge also found Cantwell in violation of his bond agreement, which specified he was not allowed to talk about or reference the victims on social media or on the radio. The victims – Emily Gorcenski and Kristopher Goad – filed a federal lawsuit against Cantwell back in February, after he filed a similar lawsuit in January.
“What he [Cantwell] did was criminal. That was an important part of this case. Having it solved the way it was is consistent with the wishes of the victims in this case,” said Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci.
Cantwell had been scheduled for a five-day jury trial, which was to begin on August 13th. Per Friday’s plea agreement, he is also now barred from Virginia for the next 5 years, is not is allowed to possess a gun while in the commonwealth, is not to have contact with the victims, and was fined $250.
A hearing over the two federal lawsuits between Cantwell, Gorcenski & Goad has yet to be set.
Albemarle County Attorney’s office Statement Reads:
Earlier today, Christopher Cantwell entered a plea of guilty to two counts of assault and battery stemming from his dispersal of pepper spray near the UVA Rotunda on August 11, 2017.
According to the terms of the plea agreement entered in Albemarle Circuit Court, Mr. Cantwell is required to:
- Leave the commonwealth within eight hours;
- Not return to the commonwealth for five years;
- Not possess a firearm in the commonwealth;
- Have no indict or indirect contact with the victims in this case.
Mr. Cantwell was sentenced to two terms of twelve (12) months, with all but 7 months suspended, to run concurrently.
The defendant received 107 days credit for jail time he has served relating to this case.
The defendant also pleaded guilty to violating the modified terms of his bond by making direct and indirect reference to the victims in this case on social media and in a radio broadcast. The court imposed a $250 fine for this violation.
The commonwealth agreed to amend charges to those to which the Mr. Cantwell entered a plea of guilty, and to bring no additional charges arising directly from the defendant’s deployment of pepper spray, tear gas, phosgene, or other gas, on August 11, 2017 if he does not violate the terms of the agreement entered by the Albemarle Circuit Court.
This agreement reflects the defendant’s acceptance of criminal responsibility for his dispersal of pepper spray on August 11, 2017. The defendant must leave the commonwealth before the end of today, is prohibited from re-entering the commonwealth for five years, and is prohibited from direct or indirect contact with victims in this case during the period of good behavior. This outcome brings a measure of finality to the defendant’s dispersal of pepper spray nearly a year ago. This agreement was supported by the victims in this case, who have been consulted at each stage of the criminal process. Finally, this agreement does not foreclose additional potential criminal prosecution of conduct arising from the events of August 11th of last year.
Robert Tracci added
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