“The Movement Is Winning”: Alleged Ringleader In Statue Attacks Claims Victory In Public Comments

download-5We have been discussing the case of Jason Charter, the George Washington University student who is alleged by the government to be the “ringleader” of the attack on the statue of Andrew Jackson near the White House. He is also accused of participating in the destruction of the statue of Confederate leader Albert Pike in Washington on June 19th.  This case raises some difficult questions over the admissibility of his political views. However, he may be making that issue easier (and harming his case) with continued comments on an unverified Tweeter account where he continues to support Antifa and claim victory.  The public comments raise the possibility of an effort to trigger a politically-infused case like the “Chicago Eight” prosecution after the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  These comments have greater value in rallying supporters than building a defense.

Many on campus have been discussing the Charter case and how it may play out in federal court.  The fact that the alleged “ringleader” of the recent attack on the monument is a GWU student came as a surprise for many. However, Antifa has long had a presence on our campus, including a 2017 incident where Charter appears to have had a confrontation with the very same conservative journalist in a government video from 2020.

Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I have been a long-standing critic of Antifa due to its profoundly anti-free speech views and its history of violence against those with opposing views, though I have opposed declaring Antifa a terrorist organization.  They have a history of attacking journalists, academics, and others. Indeed, I have been critical of Democratic leaders who have supported Antifa despite this history.   Some professors openly support the group, including its violence.

Faced with these charges, most defendants would be cautioned to avoid public statements.  However, soon after his arrest, Twitter comments from Charter began to appear.  While the account is unverified, there has been no denial that these are the comments of Charter and the account links to a defense fund for him.

On July 2, one posting on the site proclaiming #IAmAntifa stated:

I am innocent and the fact @realDonaldTrump is tweeting at and prosecuting a crippled 25 year old activist shows how desperate his is to creates false narratives. Please support my legal defense.

He also posted a film to defend Antifa.

One posting states “When you are winning you get fascism. The movement is winning so the State turned to fascism to try to stop it.”
Jason Charter
When you are winning you get fascism. The movement is winning so the State turned to fascism to try to stop it.”
He also announced that “There will be a press conference early next week where I will be making a statement.”
download-7There are real risks for criminal defendants in such public statements.  What is striking about the Antifa references is that I identified the connection to Antifa as a potentially weak point for the defense to address.  While Charter is connected to Antifa, the government does not say that he was leading an Antifa effort.  While Charter does not make that claim, his own continued references to Antifa may undermine the type of motion in limine before trial.

My concern when Charter was charged was that prosecutors would use political views to taint a case, particularly when you have an association with an extremist group like Antifa.  Whether or not such statements are admissible at trial, as discussed in the earlier posting, they could play a role in pre-trial motions in key issues of admissibility.

There would be particular concern from a criminal defense standpoint with the statement that “When you are winning you get fascism. The movement is winning so the State turned to fascism to try to stop it.”  That ties is case — and his actions — to Antifa. It also will make it more difficult for Charter to take the stand in his own defense.  Rule 608(b) states in relevant part:

Except for a criminal conviction under Rule 609, extrinsic evidence is not admissible to prove specific instances of a witness’s conduct in order to attack or support the witness’s character for truthfulness. But the court may, on cross examination, allow them to be inquired into if they are probative of the character for truthfulness or untruthfulness of: (1) the witness; or (2) another witness whose character the witness being cross-examined has testified about.

Even if the court grants a motion in limine on the political associations, these emails can easily be introduced for cross-examination or impeachment purposes.  The risk would be too great for most criminal defense counsel.

download-6Charter’s claim of innocence is less of a problem though he will have to address photos of him on these statues and even lighting a cigarette off the burning statue of Pike.  Of course, being present does not mean that he caused the damage.  As discussed, the indictment says that he is seen “waving others away from the statue, and squatting down behind the statue where his hands are not visible. Seconds later, the statue catches fire. Charter is said to be ‘seen standing over the flames as it burns.” That still requires an assumption from the jury on what he did behind the statue.

The threshold is a showing of $1000 of damage. U.S.C. §1361 states:

1361. Government property or contracts

Whoever willfully injures or commits any depredation against any property of the United States, or of any department or agency thereof, or any property which has been or is being manufactured or constructed for the United States, or any department or agency thereof, or attempts to commit any of the foregoing offenses, shall be punished as follows:

If the damage or attempted damage to such property exceeds the sum of $1,000, by a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or both; if the damage or attempted damage to such property does not exceed the sum of $1,000, by a fine under this title or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

One possible prosecutorial move could be to argue that, as the alleged “ringleader,” Charter is responsible for the damage caused by others at the scene.  Again, this magnifies the importance of the linkage to Antifa and related advocacy by Charter.

The alleged public comments by Charter may help generate support for his legal fund, but it will likely cause greater difficulties for his criminal defense counsel.  Charter is already in a highly precarious position.  He has been tagged as a leader in this effort, which reduces the likelihood of a deal with prosecutors.  He is more likely to be the subject of other plea deals than the beneficiary of a deal for himself.  If the prosecutors can admit statements claiming victory, it will advance that theory.

As the rhetoric increases on both sides, these cases are taking on the fear of past criminal cases with strong political overtones like the “Chicago Eight” Trial (sometimes called the
“Chicago Seven”) involving alleged conspiracies leading to the violence surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  As here, the federal government took the lead in the prosecution with charges against Abbie HoffmanJerry RubinDavid DellingerTom HaydenRennie DavisJohn Froines, and Lee Weiner—charged by the federal government. (The eighth defendant, Bobby Seale, was tried separately). The trial became a rallying cry for the movement as the defendants mocked the court and the case.  They were ultimately acquitted of conspiracy, inciting to riot and other charges. However, they were given sentences for contempt of court by the hard-nosed judge in the case, Judge Julius Hoffman.

The trial became an utter circus, particularly due to the mocking of the court by Hoffman and Rubin, both “Yippies” (or members of The defendants, particularly members of the Youth International Party).  At one point, Hoffman and Rubin appeared in court dressed in judicial robes. Huffman ordered them to remove the robes but then discovered that they had Chicago police uniforms underneath. Abbie Hoffman was particularly vocal, even telling Judge Hoffman “you are a shande fur de Goyim [disgrace in front of the gentiles]. You would have served Hitler better.”

The strategy ultimately worked for the defendants. It served to electrify the counter-culture and movement. While it resulted in contempt sentences (including for counsel), they had succeeded in making Judge Hoffman so angry that, on November 21, 1972, all of the convictions were reversed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on of judicial biased as well as other problems at trial. While contempt charges were retried before other judge, he did not impose a sentence on Dellinger, Rubin, Hoffman, and or their counsel.

That however would not be a good strategy today.  Judges are all too familiar with the Chicago Eight litigation.  Moreover, the case against the Chicago Eight was more attenuated than the claims raised against Charter.  Nevertheless, there are going to be difficult issues for the court (and possible an appellate court) to resolve on evidence admissibility and the attribution of damage to an alleged leader of a protest.

68 thoughts on ““The Movement Is Winning”: Alleged Ringleader In Statue Attacks Claims Victory In Public Comments”

  1. Marky Mark Mark – I see Lizzie Warren has her foot in the door for VP, she can raise more money than Harris. Besides Kanye is now going to run so that takes care of the black vote. 😉

      1. He’d probably get more votes if Lizzie Borden was his running mate.

  2. I’ve seen some interviews with this man. In my view he will not fare well in a general population environment of a medium to maximum security prison. He should hope prison officials classify him as a low security risk offender (despite the public image persona he creates) and put him in with white collar types. But if he keeps advocating criminal anarchy, he might be put away to silence him. His best oucome in that event might be protective custody.

    1. Darren Smith – he is a hard-core violent offender and needs medium to maximum gen-pop. He is an agitator, so he is not low-risk.

      1. He is a coward, pure and simple, who hides behind an illusion.

        If he gets into a prison environment with violent offenders his mouth is going to attract the wrong attention. The cons there will see weakness and will challenge him. He will probably have no friends after the peckerwoods disown him. For his own safety he better learn to hang low.

        1. My supposition would be that he’ll be on the receiving end of a certain amount of unwanted buggery.

        2. Darren Smith – if he ends up in prison he is going to be someone’s gf. He should have been seen as a flight risk.

    2. If I had my druthers, men’s penal systems would have specialized institutions and compounds. Women’s prison systems and local jails would as well, but the lower populations would mean your categories would have to be less finely articulated. Were that the case, he could be remanded to a men’s compound of those in the 21-25 or 25-40 age range who do not have a history of murder / aggressive manslaughter, forcible rape / sodomy / molestation, intentional assault (with consequences of a certain severity), arson (doing a certain quantum of damage), vandalism (doing a certain quantum of damage), riot / affray (in an incident that does a certain quantum of damage), weapons offenses of a certain severity, or anticipatory offenses to certain of these. Of course, the amount of damage done may be deemed so severe that he gets put with the thugs rather than with the dope dealers and burglars. I don’t think he needs a multi-year sentence. Nine months where he’s locked in a one person cell 60% of the time and has to navigate the social world of the exercise yard the other 40% might suffice. I doubt many prisons are built that way, in Washington State or anywhere else.

  3. What a pathetic excuse for a cadaver. Let him fry. And the “professors” who support him.

    1. Most of the professoriate in our time are manifestations of the worst among our professional-managerial class.

  4. Me. Charter looks like a cast member from one flew over the cookoos nest.

    1. Independent Bob – he could be from the cast of “Rent.”

  5. https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/research/speeches/70381a

    Message on the Observance of Independence Day, 1981

    – President Ronald Reagan
    July 3, 1981

    “Back in 1776, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail that the anniversary of our independence should be observed with great fanfare: “. . . with pomp and parades . . . shows and games . . . and sports and guns and bells . . . with bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, and from this time forevermore.”

    Well, Mr. Adams, rest assured that what you wanted is being done. Your traditions are now ours, and we guard them like national treasures. And you know why. When we unfurl our flags, strike up the bands, and light up the skies each July 4th, we celebrate the most exciting, ongoing adventure in human freedom the world has ever known.

    It began in 1620 when a group of courageous families braved a mighty ocean to build a new future in a new world. They came not for material gain, but to secure liberty for their souls within a community bound by laws.

    A century-and-a-half later, their descendants pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to found this Nation. Some would forfeit their fortunes and their lives, but none sacrificed honor.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote that on that day of America’s birth, in the little hall in Philadelphia, debate raged for hours, but the issue remained in doubt. These were honorable men; still, to sign a Declaration of Independence seemed such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with cries of “treason” and “the headsman’s axe.”

    Then, it is said, one unknown man rose to speak. He was neither young, nor strong in voice; yet, he spoke with such conviction that he mesmerized the hall. He cited the grievances that had brought them to this moment. Then, his voice failing, he said: “They may turn every tree into a gallows, every hole into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic in the workshop, they will speak hope, to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever.” And sign they did.

    What makes our revolution unique and so exciting, then, is that it changed the very concept of government. Here was a new nation telling the world that it was conceived in liberty; that all men are created equal with God-given rights, and that power ultimately resides in “We the people.”

    We sometimes forget this great truth, and we never should, because putting people first has always been America’s secret weapon. It’s the way we’ve kept the spirit of our revolution alive — a spirit that drives us to dream and dare, and take great risks for a greater good. It’s the spirit of Fulton and Ford, the Wright brothers and Lindbergh, and of all our astronauts. It’s the spirit of Joe Louis, Babe Ruth, and a million others who may have been born poor, but who would not be denied their day in the Sun.

    Well, I’m convinced that we’re getting that spirit back. The Nation is pulling together. We’re looking to the future with new hope and confidence — and we know we can make America great again by putting the destiny of this Nation back in the hands of the people. And why shouldn’t we? Because, after all, we are Americans.

    As Dwight Eisenhower once said: “There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizens cannot cure.”

    He was right. If we just stick together, and remain true to our ideals, we can be sure that America’s greatest days lie ahead.

    Happy Fourth of July!“

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