An Ohio man was sentenced to 46 months in prison this week for his role in the beating of DeAndre Harris after the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, devolved into roving skirmishes following a white supremacist rally there in 2017.
Daniel Borden is one of four white supremacists charged with assaulting Harris. Two others, Alex Ramos and Jacob Goodwin, were already convicted in the case last year. The fourth, Tyler Davis, is scheduled to stand trial next month.
Borden is the only one of the four who cut a deal with prosecutors in the case, entering what’s known as an Alford plea in which he maintains his innocence but stipulates there is enough evidence to find him guilty. Though he was sentenced to 20 years, the judge suspended 16 years and two months of that penalty. Ramos and Goodwin received lengthier terms after being convicted last year.
“I think he should have got more time,” Harris told CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday, “but justice has been served. I’m still here. That’s all I’m really grateful for.”
Harris was himself charged with assaulting a white supremacist that day, but jurors found that he’d swung the flashlight he was carrying in self defense after another member of the racist crowd began walloping another person with a pole.
The melee, which took place in a downtown parking garage and was caught on video, was just one of several incidents like it that day. Proud racists had converged on a small city park that’s home to a statue of Robert E. Lee, most of them carrying shields and cudgels emblazoned with white supremacist organizational logos.
Counterdemonstrators from various loosely-organized antiracism and antifascist groups showed up to meet them, many intent on a peaceful show of defiance others angling to physically prevent the neo-Nazis from entering the square to rally with David Duke and other white supremacist speakers.
Police took a passive approach at the edge of the park, which was lined on two sides by heavily armed militia members who said they were there to protect the racists’ right to assemble.
When a late-arriving block of white supremacists approached the square shortly after 11:00 that morning, a group of antifascists charged them. As the two groups brawled right in front of a cluster of inter-faith clergymen and women who’d earlier attempted to form a human blockade at one park entrance, police finally ordered the crowds to disperse.
But the police action only succeeded in forcing the groups elsewhere across the city’s old downtown. As many of the counterprotesters regrouped to march, chanting and singing, through the streets, scattered clumps of out-of-town neo-Nazis also roamed the area. One, a young and recently radicalized Ohio man named James Fields, saw a large group marching with anti-racist slogans on placards and signs, and gunned his car into the group, killing Heather Heyer and badly injuring almost two dozen others.
Fields was convicted of murdering Heyer, and numerous other crimes. Jurors last month recommended an effective life sentence, but it remains to be seen what penalty the judge in the case will actually impose later this winter.
Borden, Ramos, Goodwin, and Davis are perhaps the second-most-prominent faces of the day’s violence after Fields. Video of the four striking a prone, curled-up Harris on the concrete floor of the parking garage went viral quickly.
The competition for that dubious honor is stiff. Richard Preston, the Klansman who fired his gun during the scrum at the park, got about the same sentence Borden was just issued. Corey Long, the local resident who was photographed using an aerosol can as an improvised flamethrower to keep Confederate Flag-wielding marchers at bay, initially appealed his conviction but agreed this week to accept his 20-day jail sentence.
Several other people have been charged in connection to the so-called “Unite the Right” rally and ensuing chaos, including several other out-of-state visitors with close connections to violent white supremacist activities elsewhere.
Almost a year and a half later, the city’s police have not regained their community’s trust, according to Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney. The department is shorthanded because of a “mass exodus” that Brackney blames in part on the lingering, simmering anger that locals express to police there in street encounters to this day.