‘There’s no place in a civilized society for citizens to take the law into their own hands…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Four of the alleged vandals charged in the toppling of the University of North Carolina’s Silent Sam statue went to court Thursday.
Two of them—Raul Jimenez, 27, and Shawn Birchfield–Fin, 30—were found guilty on misdemeanor counts of of injury to real property, defacing a monument and disorderly conduct.
Jimenez and Birchfield–Fin each were given a sentence of 24 hours in jail, 250 hours of community service and a $500 fine plus court costs.
Two other alleged perpetrators, Lauren Aucoin and Jonathan Fuller, had their charges dismissed after Judge Lunsford Long was unable to identify them in video footage of the Aug. 20, 2018 destruction of the Confederate monument, which was erected in 1913.
A fifth individual charged in the monument’s destruction, Margarita Sitterson, will be tried separately on May 9, according to Triad City Beat.
Long rejected a defense that felling the monument constituted a “public necessity” and condemned the mob mentality in his sentencing.
“There’s no place in a civilized society for citizens to take the law into their own hands,” Long said. “… They fed off of each other, and they did something a large part of society would never do.”
He said the assailants were contributing to the toxic culture that they purported to be railing against.
“There have to be consequences for those actions—the damaged property, for the inflamed situation in our culture right now. This is part of it—not the cause of it, but it’s part of it.”
Acknowledging the politically charged nature of the case, Long also tried to offer a parallel situation if right-wing radicals were to take matters into their own hands at the US–Mexico Border amid an ongoing illegal immigration crisis.
“By that logic [public necessity] the vigilantes at the border can detain people based on the harm they perceive them doing,” he noted.
The case follows several others in which students present at the scene were charged with counts such as disorderly conduct and inciting a riot for related incidents during the protest—attended by an estimated 250 people.
While a number of those participants have either had charges dismissed or been found not guilty, WSOC reported that 11 others have been convicted thus far.
Graduate student Maya Little was found guilty in October of a separate April 30 incident, believed to have prompted the August protest, in which she poured blood and ink on the Silent Sam statue, but she was not sentenced for it.
Little was back in court last month—along with several others— for allegedly attempting to push down a barricade and assault a government official during a Dec. 9 demonstration, which was in response to a UNC board’s decision—later reversed—to return the statue to campus. Little was found not guilty on those counts.
Jimenez, who some reports said was one of the protest organizers, was previously charged in the toppling of another Confederate statue in nearby Durham, but was found not guilty.
Birchfield–Finn was charged again on Thursday for carrying a 3.4-inch pocket knife through courthouse security.
The two guilty protestors have said they plan to appeal.
In addressing the court after his sentencing, Jimenez remained defiant and unrepentant, reported Triad City Beat, offering a vaguely menacing promise to keep fighting and to hold the court system “accountable” for the guilty verdict.
“We intend to keep fighting these charges, just as we continue to fight white supremacy, all across North Carolina,” he said.
“We’re disappointed, yes we are, in the way that the judicial system treated us today. It did not treat us fairly, and we will hold them accountable for that. And we look forward to contributing to this movement as well.”