RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Nearly six years after a large gathering of white nationalists in Charlottesville erupted in violent clashes with counterprotesters, a grand jury in Virginia has indicted multiple people on felony charges for carrying flaming torches with the intent to intimidate.
The Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office said in a news release that the indictments relate to an event on Aug. 11, 2017. That's when a group of white nationalists carrying torches marched through the campus of the University of Virginia, some chanting, “Jews will not replace us."
Commonwealth's Attorney James Hingeley did not say in the release how many people have been indicted and did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment on Tuesday. According to electronic court records, the indictments against three people have been unsealed, including William Zachary Smith, of Nacona, Texas; Tyler Bradley Dykes, of Bluffton, South Carolina; and Dallas Medina, of Ravenna, Ohio.
Each is charged with a single count of burning an object with the intent of intimidating a person or group of people. The charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.
Smith's attorney, Cody Villalon, declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday. Dykes and Medina do not have the name of any attorneys listed in electronic court records.
The indictments, which were issued in February but only recently unsealed, come almost six years after violence broke out during two days of demonstrations by the largest gathering of white nationalists in a decade.
Clashes began on the night of Aug. 11, 2017, during the torch march, and continued the following day, when a “Unite the Right” rally was planned. James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist from Maumee, Ohio, rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring dozens. Fields is serving a life sentence for murder and hate crimes.
Prosecutors said the indictments were issued “as part of a criminal investigation that is active and ongoing,” adding they work with law enforcement to investigate, analyze applicable laws, and bring charges “when appropriate.”
“This is our process regardless of how much time has passed or where the alleged offenders may be found,” they said.
Former President Donald Trump set off a firestorm of criticism when he said there were “very fine people on both sides” of the clashes between white nationalists and anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville.
By DENISE LAVOIE AP Legal Affairs Writer
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