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Senator charged with ‘injuring’ Confederate monument

Portsmouth Police are charging state Sen. L. Louise Lucas with two felonies in connection with damage done to the city’s Confederate monument during a June 10 protest.

Police Chief Angela Greene announced the charges — which include conspiracy to commit a felony and injuring a monument valued in excess of $1,000 — against Lucas and others during a press conference Monday afternoon. Also charged are Portsmouth NAACP President James Boyd and Vice President Louie Gibbs, as well as other NAACP members, a Portsmouth School Board member, public defenders and other protestors.

The incident, as local CBS affiliate WTKR reports, began the evening of June 9 as a peaceful protest, but escalated the next day after police arrested Boyd and Gibbs for allegedly trespassing on the monument — charges a judge dismissed on July 30. Following the NAACP leaders’ arrest, protestors began spray painting the names of Black people killed by police onto the monument, and later that evening, attempted to bring down parts of the monument with a sledgehammer while others cheered them on. One man — Chris Green — was severely injured when a piece of the monument fell on him.

According to Greene, her department began its own investigation of the incident after discussions with Portsmouth’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office regarding a special grand jury and a special prosecutor did not result in any charges being levied against any of the protestors. Following the conclusion of the Virginia State Police’s accident investigation on July 22, a team of Portsmouth Police detectives and supervisors began to compile all written, audio and video evidence surrounding the circumstances that led to the monument being damaged, culminating with the life-threatening injury to Green.

“As a result of this investigative team’s findings, it was determined that several individuals conspired and organized to destroy the monument, as well as summonsed hundreds of people to join in the felonious acts, which not only resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the monument, but also permanent injury to an individual,” Greene said. “As your chief of police, I take seriously my public and my officers’ trust that I will ensure all the laws of the state and our Constitution are upheld and that I would not place any citizen or officer in unnecessary danger.”

The department is still trying to identify 13 other individuals associated with the incident, and detectives are asking for anyone who may have video footage to share their videos at portsmouthpd.evidence.com/axon/citizen/public/monument.

On Tuesday, the Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney’s Office released the following statement in response to the arrest warrants, indicating that the police department’s probable cause summary lists Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales as a “potential material and eyewitness … likely to be called to testify by either the prosecution or the defense.”

Morales’ office indicated that should she be subpoenaed, her office would file a motion to quash the subpoena on the grounds that it “would effectively create a conflict of interest and prohibit the Commonwealth Attorney from being involved in a job she was elected, by the citizens of this city, to do.”

“If that motion is denied and a special prosecutor is sought, it removes the ability of this Commonwealth Attorney from acting and places matters in the hands of a special prosecutor who is not accountable to this city,” the response reads. “This office makes prosecutorial determination when indictments are requested upon receipt of complete investigative results … Our office released a statement on July 8, 2020, that we had not received such results and as of today, August 18, 2020, has still received no such investigative results. The Portsmouth Police Department chose their traditional process of securing warrants, albeit over two months after the alleged events, in lieu of submitting complete investigative results to this office. We call for a fair and equitable process for all involved.”

According to WAVY-TV, among the evidence police have of Lucas’ involvement is a video clip of the senator saying to Portsmouth police, “They’re going to put some paint on this thing, and y’all cannot arrest them. You need to call Dr. Patton.”

When an officer objects, saying, “Ma’am, you can’t tell them to do that,” Lucas replies, “I’m not telling them to do anything. I’m telling you you can’t arrest them. Call Dr. Patton.”

Dr. L. Pettis Patton is Portsmouth’s city manager.

The video clip is among those Virginia Beach attorney Tim Anderson published to his YouTube channel as part of an ongoing effort to have Lucas recalled from office. In a fact sheet distributed with recall petitions, Anderson claims Lucas “knew, that when she entered the area, her actions would escalate the aggression of the protestors” and had used the influence and power of her elected office unlawfully to order Portsmouth police not to intervene.

Lucas’ 18th District covers parts of Suffolk, Franklin, and the counties of Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry.

In response to the recall efforts, the senator filed a defamation lawsuit against Anderson on July 1, in which she claims she had been assured by Patton that no one would be arrested for trespassing or for peacefully protesting, and that she had merely asked Greene to call Patton herself to verify this. The senator further claims she never advised the protestors to do anything unlawful and was on site no longer than approximately 30 minutes, having left around 2:45 p.m. and never returned. It wasn’t until after dark that evening that protestors beheaded four Confederate figures attached to the monument and pulled one down, injuring Green.

Lucas has yet to release a statement in regards to the warrants, but her attorney, Don Scott, stated in an on-camera interview with WAVY, “They’re doing what they always do, which is to weaponize the criminal justice system against Black leadership.”

“That’s what they’re doing this time, we’re going to fight it vehemently, we’re going to fight it vigorously,” Scott said.

According to Lucas’ district office staff, the senator was in Richmond Tuesday for Gov. Ralph Northam’s special called session of the General Assembly. Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement on Monday, condemning the charges against Lucas.

“The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) strongly condemns the suspiciously timed and seemingly retaliatory actions by the Portsmouth Police against Senator Louise Lucas (D-18th, Portsmouth), a VLBC Member and President Pro Tempore of the Virginia State Senate. On June 24, 2020, the VLBC released its Special Session Priorities, with a strong focus on policing reform and holding law enforcement accountable. … Sen. Lucas will patron some of these key measures.

“Yet today the Portsmouth Police Department announced that it was filing charges against Sen. Lucas, a longstanding public servant who has dedicated her life to public service and the people of this Commonwealth. This timely, suspiciously retaliatory attack on the first Black person and Woman to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Virginia State Senate is unacceptable … These attacks will not prosper. To quote Senator Lucas: ‘Not this time.’”