by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Dan McLaughlin of National Review Online reports on a clear case of a prosecutor abusing power for political purposes.
[I]t was bad for Chuck Schumer and other Democrats to laud political mobs on their own side while bringing felony charges carrying significant jail time against political mobs on the other side — even when that meant throwing the book against people who committed no acts of violence. Well, here we are a day later, and we have news that criminal charges have been brought against three far-right protesters at the infamous 2017 Charlottesville tiki-torch rally. These men were extradited from Texas, Ohio, and South Carolina to Virginia and charged with . . . marching with tiki torches:
“Prosecutors allege the torch carriers violated a rarely enforced criminal statute, which makes it a crime to burn objects with intent to intimidate, when they marched around the University of Virginia campus on Aug. 11, 2017, while chanting “You will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan “Blood and soil.” . . . Burning objects with intent to intimidate is punishable in Virginia by one to five years in prison.” …
… This is an insane and abusive prosecution, and quite likely unconstitutional. There are a couple of immediate warning signs. First, even the Washington Post account describes this as “a rarely enforced criminal statute.” In fact, searching for either the statute cited or its text, I could not find a single published court opinion arising from a prosecution under Va. Code § 18.2-423.01 in the two decades since its enactment. Second, the elected prosecutor specifically pledged, when he was running for office, to prosecute these defendants. James Hingeley, the commonwealth attorney for Albemarle County, was elected after pledging in 2019 to bring charges his predecessor wouldn’t: “There are so many people in our community . . . who were there on August 11 who were terrorized by torch-wielding terrorists.”