Generally speaking, the criminal justice system tries to fashion punishments to deter future criminals, who would look at past punishments and think, “You know, this just isn’t worth it.” For example, is trying to rob this bank worth 25 years in prison? Probably not.
In a similar vein, a jury in Charlottesville, Virginia set the worth of punching a white supremacist at $1. Jeffrey Winder was found guilty of misdemeanor assault for striking “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler during counter-protests last year, but he’s facing far less than the maximum possible penalty.
No Harm, No Foul
Virginia’s assault and battery laws are fairly strict, and Winder could’ve been sentenced to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines. As it stands, however, he will serve no jail time and only pay the ceremonial dollar.
Kessler, a 2009 University of Virginia graduate, has been linked with far-right and neo-Nazi groups in the past, and written white supremacist screeds on his blog and conservative website Daily Caller. (Ironically, Kessler himself was arrested for and pleaded guilty to punching a man in the face while gathering signatures to oust a Charlottesville teacher and city councilperson in 2017.) Kessler was the main organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017, and event marred by violence and the murder of counter-protestor Heather Heyer.
It was the day after that incident that Kessler attempted to give a news conference, while being booed, shouted down, and crowded out by protestors. While Winder maintains he was not the person who threw a punch that struck Kessler around the head or shoulders, he did tell a local news station, “He [Kessler] had an incredible amount of nerve coming in front of the people of Charlottesville after the pain, suffering, and terror that he brought on the community. He should never be allowed to show his face in town again.”
“People Made Fun of Me”
Kessler testified at Winder’s trial that the incident left him emotionally distressed. “I was attacked in front of the whole world, and then people made fun of me for it,” he said. Kessler attempted to hold an anniversary rally this summer, but was shunned both by the City of Charlottesville and his fellow racists, who consider him a pariah. Last month, live stream video surfaced of Kessler admitting to moving back in with his parents, featuring his father berating him and demanding that he stop recording white supremacist content in his room.
- Jury Fines Man $1 For Punching Charlottesville Rally Organizer (NPR)
- Court: Civil Rights Case to Proceed Against White Supremacists (FindLaw’s U.S. Fourth Circuit Court Blog)
- Criminal Charges Following Violence, Death in Charlottesville (FindLaw Blotter)
- Lawsuit: ‘Violence in Charlottesville Was No Accident’ (FindLaw’s Injured)