First CHS/UVa Attacker Charged and Sentenced

The first of the teenagers charged with the January assaults on UVa students has been sentenced. Gordon Lathan Fields was not charged with committing a hate crime. Instead, he pled guilty to assault and battery by mob, and was given a 30-day jail sentence, 50 hours of community service and made to provide financial restitution to the victims. Fields claimed that he thought that his friend was being attacked, and was coming to her rescue. Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman says that there’s no basis for charging any of the nine teenagers with hate crimes, despite that some of them confessed that they’d chosen their victims because they were white. Adrienne Schwisow has the story in today’s Progress.

67 Responses to “First CHS/UVa Attacker Charged and Sentenced”


  • Man, you just gotta love a Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney….

  • I saw the story on NBC29 last night. How about it turning out that Gordon Fields’ attorney, who insisted that Fields was really a knight in shining armor coming to the aid of a damsel in distress was none other than Charlottesville Democratic chairman (and chief supporter/counselor to Blake Caravati), Lloyd Snook? Are these guys all in cahoots?

  • Are these guys all in cahoots?.

    C’mon — you need to ask?

  • Waiiit, so Snook is his attorney and the commonwealth’s attorney is a Democrat and Reverend Alvin Edwards was the mayor (and I think the head of the Democratic Party)? And Caravatti is mayor and has handled all this so badly and Snook is working to get him relected? Doesn’t that mean that these guys are all old buddys?

    Something’s not right there.

  • Something’s not right there.

    Welcome to one-party government. Does ANYONE outside of the rulership enclosures in Pyongyang, Havana, or Bagddad really think one-party government is good government.

    I certainly don’t — and I’m a Democrat.

    But if you do, I’d like to hear why. Please.

  • HE SAID

    Gordon Fields said (through his attorney; from today’s Progress article):

    [T]hat he joined the assault on three UVa students Jan. 25 because he saw a female friend fighting with two men and thought, mistakenly, that she had been attacked. “I tried to pull one of the students off of my friend and I got into a separate fight with him. What I should have done was to pull my friend away from the fight, both because she was in the wrong to begin with, and because she apparently kept fighting with the person that she had attacked, and she apparently hurt him seriously” […] Chapman said Fields admitted punching one of the three men attacked between two and eight times, but described Fields’ role in the attack as “secondary.” “Gordon did not know his friends were planning on attacking UVa students,” Fields’ lawyer, J. Lloyd Snook III, said.

    THEY SAID:

    The three male, UVA students said:

    The assailants, ‘ran up from behind, hit them, kicked them and then ran off . . . The sudden nature of the attack left the victims capable of only vague recollection of the details of the violent assault and its perpetrators. ‘We tried to escape and ran about five meters,’ said one of the victims, who asked to remain anonymous. ‘About three or four people started kicking me in the head. From then on, it’s just a haze,’ he said. ‘I won’t be going to class for a couple of days.’ One of the three students was admitted to University Hospital and has been released. The others sustained scrapes and other minor injuries and refused medical attention.” “[A] group of four men and two women, all black, approached three U.Va. men walking along Rugby Road. The group punched and kicked the U.Va., students, other students said, giving one 19-year-old a concussion.” One victim reported that he “was kicked, over and over again . . .”

  • Boo this man Dave Chapman! Boo! Boo!

    SWWH

  • From the Daily Progress (12/15/00):

    At a meeting at Mount Zion Baptist Church, the committee chose lawyer J. Lloyd Snook, III as chairman […]

    Snook, a prominent criminal defense lawyer who served on the city Planning Commission in the 1980s and ran unsuccessfully for the City Council in 1990, is a vocal death penalty opponent and longtime party member […]

    The party chairman and vice chairman are responsible for generating candidates within the party for state and local elected offices. Most of their work takes place behind the scenes […]

    Snook will replace the Rev. Alvin Edwards, a former city councilor and mayor who has been party chairman for almost two years […]

    The City Council has been made up exclusively of Democrats since 1990 […]

  • Some respect for Chapman, please! I believe him, yo. I don’t know why, but I do.

  • Even if Snook and Edwards and Caravati are all old friends, it is not like C-ville’s mayor has any real power in the sentancing of criminels. He can suggest all he wants, but it is up to the Commenwealth’s Attorney and CPD.

    In this case what happened was Fields was originally charged with Felony Maliscous Wounding, unfournetly that charge requires him to have premeditated the attack. Since he only participated in one attack in a secondary nature he was obviously not going to have been stewing over these attacks weeks ahead of time. So the Felony charge would not hold up in court. They downgrade it to something he can be charge for, and he offers his testimony against other kids.

    Also, the thing that I think is ridiculous is them saying that he punched someone up to eight times. The person who he punched up to eight times would have a lot more then a bruise and a scratch on his face. Gordon in 6’4 and 240 pounds, I have seen him lift weights, it is scary.

  • I don’t think that everyone buys his story — I presume this pleading is to avoid a pointless trial, not because they think he is coming clean.

  • Also, the thing that I think is ridiculous is them saying that he punched someone up to eight times. The person who he punched up to eight times would have a lot more then a bruise and a scratch on his face. Gordon in 6’4 and 240 pounds, I have seen him lift weights, it is scary.

    From today’s Progress article:

    Chapman said Fields admitted punching one of the three men attacked between two and eight times . . .

    (And, if you’re any friend of Fields, it might not be best to use the word “scary” when describing him. Call this PR 101.)

  • Should we start a cvillenews.com collection to send an English teacher to do triage at CHS?

  • Fine change the adjactive scary to amazing.

    Also, I am not describing him specifically as scary, but more the ammount of weights he can lift. And, obviously, one is to use a looser interpretation of the word. Does it honestly frighten me? No. Is it remarkable that someone can have the strength to bench so much? Yes. Is it intimidating? A little.

    Also, we obviusoly have two different stories, for as long as this thing has been going on, Gordon has always said that he punched the guy then pushed him. The police have said that he did a lot more. Thus the “2” and the “8”.

    Fields is basically admitting that he hit the guy two times. It even says so in the earliest Progress, when they did a big spread about him.

    Also, in the future make a point and don’t end it with some little dig “call this PR 101.” Its not helping anybody.

  • Folks:

    I wish WVIR had at least made reference to Gordon Fields’ statement. It was, first and foremost, an apology. The Progress quoted part of it. What Gordon’s statement said, which is consistent with what he told the police when he was first questioned, is that he was not aware that two of the people he was walking with — who had been in another car — were planning to attack UVA students. When two of his friends attacked two UVA students, he was about 10 yards away. The third student then tried to pull one of Gordon’s friends off of one of the UVA students. Gordon saw his friend fighting with two students, and he went to pull the student off of his friend. That student then wound up fighting Gordon. While Gordon was fighting the third student, one of the original attackers continued her attack on the student that she had picked on. From other evidence (Gordon did not see what was happening with that fight), it appears that the first victim suffered a concussion from getting kicked in the head. Gordon does not doubt that the student with whom he fought thought that Gordon was attacking him, but that is not what he intended when he ran over to break up the fight.

    Gordon’s statement is very clear — he knows that what he should have done was to pull his friend away from the fight, rather than to pull the other student off of his friend. He said that he knows that he should have done that, both because his friend was in the wrong to begin with, and because his friend continued to attack (and apparently cause serious injury to) the student that she had attacked in the first place. Had he pulled her away, instead of trying to pull the student off of herdone that, his intentions would have been clear, and quite probably the first victim would not have been so seriouisly hurt.

    Someone else who has posted to this message board has noted that the Commonwealth would likely have had problems proving their case for malicious wounding. Virginia law is that it is very difficult to sustain a charge of malicious wounding where there was no weapon used, or unless the injuries were so serious that we can infer that the attacker intended to “maim, disfigure, disable or kill.” Gordon did not have a weapon, and he did not inflict serious injury. So the only way that the Commonwealth could prove the intent necessary to support the charge of malicious wounding is to prove that Gordon knew about a “plan” to beat up students, or that he jumped into the fight with the intent that the first assault be allowed to continue uninterrupted. There would not have been any direct proof of that, though obviously, a judge or jury would have been permitted to infer intent from the whole circumstances of the melee.

    If you assume that the case against Gordon was best looked at as an assault and battery case rather than as a malicious wounding, you then have to look at what courts usually do with assault and battery cases involving people with no prior criminal record. Most people who have no prior criminal record who commit assaults or batteries bet between 10 and 30 days in jail, with some measure of suspended jail time as well.

    That’s what Gordon got.

    We have not tried to say that Gordon was blameless — just that he was not part of some plan to beat up UVA students.

    Lloyd Snook

  • Gordon has always said that he punched the guy then pushed him.

    He said to whom? Where?

    Even if that’s his (unsworn?) story, there must be a reason why the police and Commonwealth’s Attorney believe otherwise. Perhaps others facing charges have tried to pin some of the blows they threw to Fields (hence, his willingness to testify against them). Or perhaps the victims have identified him as having a greater role than that to which he admits, to the authorities or to you.

  • I wish WVIR had at least made reference to Gordon Fields’ statement. It was, first and foremost, an apology. The Progress quoted part of it.

    Ain’t nothin’ stopping you from posting it — in its entirety — here.

  • man you are a typical democrat. Everyone’s a victim. It doesn’t matter until it happens to you. There WAS serious injury to the victim.

  • I think that the “score” for this post is dead on:

    Re: First CHS/UVa Attacker Charged and Sentenced (Score: 0)

    It’s a big ol’ zero of a post. Who is saying that there wasn’t serious injury to the victim? Snook doesn’t say that in his defense of Fields. None of the news coverage has suggested that the victims weren’t injured. I just don’t get your point: the victims _were_ injured (which no one disputes, except in your paranoid fantasy world) so therefore…what, we should execute the ones who injured them? the ones who injured them should go to prison for 40 years? i get the feeling that no punishment is going to satisfy you, because you aren’t really after punishing the perpetrators of this assault and battery–you’d rather whine about democrats and how they have control of this town and how oppressed you are by the democrats, etc. you sound like as much of a whiner and oppression-seeker as the strawmen-democrats you create to criticize.

  • oh my gosh, you are all so powerless and oppressed.

  • Who is saying that there wasn’t serious injury to the victim?

    Perhaps the anonymous poster was reacting to the post above, a bit higher:

    “The person who he punched up to eight times would have a lot more then a bruise and a scratch on his face.”

  • When is he up for re-election?

  • you’d rather whine about democrats and how they have control of this town and how oppressed you are by the democrats, etc. you sound like as much of a whiner and oppression-seeker as the strawmen-democrats you create to criticize.

    I’m not the poster to whom to respond, but I’ll ask: do you think one-party government is good government?

  • I think that the “score” for this post is dead on:

    Re: First CHS/UVa Attacker Charged and Sentenced (Score: 0)

    Perhaps you’re right — but perhaps it hasn’t been awarded a score yet. Perhaps Waldo could clarify the scoring system (not that his scoring should obscure how others might evaluate a given post).

  • Perhaps you’re right — but perhaps it hasn’t been awarded a score yet. Perhaps Waldo could clarify the scoring system

    No, I’m leaving it at 0. :)

    Posts by anonymous users start at 0. Register users’ posts start at 1. The idea behind this is that you can filter your posts in your preferences (or using that little “Threshold” pulldown at the top of your screen there) and not see things from people that aren’t willing to put their name to something.

    From there, the post can be assigned certain values and attributes. There are a few of us that do this, but I’ll admit that I do the bulk of that scoring. This is a software limitation; I hope to be able to upgrade to a new program before long that will make it possible to allow many people to rank posts, rather than making it just my opinion. (The less that cvillenews.com is “what Waldo thinks” and the more that it’s “what Charlottesville thinks,” the happier that I’ll be.)

    Some anonymous posts are best left at 0, because they don’t contain anything particularly notable or interesting, or because they’re simply inflammatory. Sometimes they’re worthy of being ranked at the level of a registered user, and they’re taken up to 1.

    All posts might be further marked up on the basis of being interesting, insighful, etc. Most posts get left at 1, simply because there aren’t enough posts attached to most stories that it becomes necessary to be able to have very many shades of grey. However, there’s the occasional truely-great post (like Lloyd Snook’s, attached to this story) that get further moderated up. The maximum score is +5.

    Now, some comments get moderated down. If something is offtopic, flamebait, a troll or redundant, then it may be downgraded. Things seldom go below 0, down to the minimum score, -1. That’s because the default view when reading cvillenews.com is to show everything at 0 and up. You have to specifically change your settings to see something at -1. So something has to be really nasty or inappropriate to go down to there. (But it has happened.) This feature allows us to never erase anything from the site, but only moderate things into oblivion. :)

    Anyhow, I hope that clears things up a bit. I think I’ll moderate this post up as +1 Informative, and then down -1 Offtopic. ;)

  • Anyhow, I hope that clears things up a bit.

    It does. Thanks.

  • From today’s Progress

    The leader of the [committees], the Rev. Alvin Edwards, a former mayor, said after Thursday’s trial that race problems persist in Charlottesville. “You’ll always have racial tension when you have Caucasians who were involved who weren’t charged,” Edwards said.

    Is this just political posturing to the loyal, or is he suggesting that all off the CHS students who were involved in the attacks — however indirectly — should be charged?

    If memory serves, the police thought 20 students were involved in some way or another, but the Commonwealth’s Attorney only targeted those who were actually directly (“physically”, I suppose) involved in the violence itself.

  • Alvin is talking about the girls who went along with the thugs but didn’t do anything. The racial tension is there because a group of black teenagers were going around attacking non-black young people. Some of them admitted that race was a factor when they selected their victims and the police reported this to the media. Edward’s claim that the source of the tension is the fact that the white tag-along girls weren’t charged is just more racism. They weren’t charged because they didn’t hit anyone not because they are white.

  • So it is just cynical, racial politicking? How depressing . . .

    And there I thought he was busy “building bridges”.

  • Nah — that would expose the statement to direct response, criticism, and what not.

    It would be much better to have the “community committees” vote to “instruct” Maurice Jones to post it at charlottesville.org

  • Was Rev. Edwards being antagonistic or just insensitive when he referred to “Caucasians”? I believe the label of preference is “whites”. This would be like a white talking about “Negroes”.

  • I believe his reference to “Caucasians” was just old-fashioned.

    The last form with race/ethnicity boxes I had to fill-in described such people as “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe” (or similar nonsense) — which I suppose would makes “whites” the kin of Neanderthals.

    Neanderthal-descended-American is surely a mouthful of hyphenation, though.

  • Oh yes, Cecil, I whine. I whine considerably about this city and the people that run it. And, as a citizen, I vote. But I am only one vote, so therefore I whine. Hopefully reputable republicans will eventually step up to the plate and run for office.

  • Being “reputable” isn’t enough. Jon Bright, Elizabeth Fortune, and John Pfaltz are all reputable and capable people and they all lost badly in the last election.

  • does that make it a conspiracy? sounds to me like not enough charlottesvilleans are interested in republicans, capable or not.

  • could they have been charged as accessories? if one of them drove the getaway car, isn’t she an accessory?

  • Who suggested that it’s a conspiracy? Certainly a majority of the small minority of Charlottesville residents who do vote are not interested in voting republican. Many people bitch and moan about the City Council but then they also say, “Hell no I don’t vote. Why would I? It won’t make any difference.”

  • Cecil here, but posting on a computer that I don’t want to log in from. I think one-party government _can_ be good government, if thoughtful smart capable people are elected. If lazy, selfish people are elected, we’ll have bad government. That can happen when you have one-party government or multi-party government. There’s nothing intrinsically better about two- or multi-party government.

    I think you’re fetishizing the party affiliations of elected representatives instead of talking about actual people.

  • I believe Dave as well, and I know why. The reason is because I know him.

    My political leanings are considerably to the right of everyone on Council and Dave as well, by the way.

  • Dave Chapman had sex with my mama — WHY?!

  • had sex with my mama — WHY?!

    I don’t know. Because she works with horses?

  • I knew that when the sentencing for anyone came down, people would have a big old brain hemorrhage. I would venture to make a prediction: Gordon Fields will be the one who serves the most time simply b/c he was charged as an adult. The only thing that would make me wrong would be if the other kids had a prior history with the police and then they would be possibly deep trouble.

    Now, I have to respect to Lloyd Snook coming on-line and saying what he had to say. If people were expecting his lawyer to say more than he said in court, you’re really sadly mistaken. He would be an idiot to do so.

    For a felony by mob conviction, I would have been surprised if that had happened. As it is, the state has a cooperating witness for the other crimes, Fields explains his side of the story (which seems real to me esp. when you remember he is at that stage where everyone sticks up for their friend until they gain a little sense), etc.

    If you want to get outraged, look at similar sentencings for people convicted of similar crimes (irregardless of the race situation) and see what they serve.

    What is interesting to me is that I looked up on Google some information on Allen Iverson and according to one web site, it says that the law on assault by mob law was designed to protect blacks from lynching. (He was convicted of mob assault in a bowling alley melee.)

    :lg

  • I agree with the original sentiment in this thread. The sentence Chapmen agreed to is definitely too lenient.

    I mean, if I ever get charged with anything, _I_ wanna talk to Chapman! It’s the best shit around! Chapman’s shit is less! Got the whole town in lockdownnnnn!

  • Comin’ at ya like El Nino!

  • Oops, wrong thread.

    As I was saying …

    Dave Chapman, comin’ at ya like El Nino!

  • I would venture to make a prediction: Gordon Fields will be the one who serves the most time simply b/c he was charged as an adult.

    I could be wrong (as I’m not a laywer), but . . .

    I think under the Youthful Offender Act, juveniles convicted of violent felonies are sentenced as if they were an adult. Some of these juveniles are (reportedly, but yet incompletely so, without good reason) charged with felonies. Robbery might or might not fall under the code for “violent felony” for the Youthful Offender Act, but malicious wounding must certainly. Such charges might be easier to prove against those who caused serious injury, used weapons (sticks, and whatever they used to “club” the head of the victim in the Jan 12 attack — if I heard the NPR report correctly). If so, and if convicted, they’d face greater penalties than Fields, even if they didn’t have prior records. However, the judges in Juvie Court have greater flexibility in sentencing — so who knows.

    And can’t the Commonwealth’s Attorney decide to move some of the juvenile cases to “adult” court? Not that he seems inclined to do so . . .

  • . . . which didn’t show up in “preview”

  • you know what? I want to apologize for my previous post. Not for the sentiment (I’m exasperated with all the whining I’m hearing about Democrats controlling everything). But that post was uselessly snide. Sorry.

  • What strikes me is that much of the complaining comes from folks who announce themselves to be Democrats — which could just be a forum-façade, of course. But in any case, such rumblings within the city’s Democrats isn’t something new; just search your personal memory of recent years, or troll through the archives on George Loper’s website (linked, here to the left).

  • WINA story here.

  • I’m going to have to disagree with your prediction. Yes, Gordon faced the possibility of a higher penalty because he was tried as an adult, but I think that his sentence will be much lower than two or three of the juveniles.

    Gordon was only involved with one incident and he did not seem to have any prior knowledge of the “plan” (for lack of a better word). He does not have a previous record, unlike at least two of the juveniles. He did not rob anyone, as it seems that one of the girls involved did (finding the stolen purse in her house is pretty solid evidence in my book). And he didn’t use a weapon, or have one in his possession (I believe a gun was recovered from one of the minors).

    I also don’t think he “got off easy.” 30 days in jail, 6 monthes suspended, community sevice, financial resitution to the victim, AND agreeing to testify in the other cases doesn’t seem unfair at all. His testimony could also lead to convictions on some of the felony charges, and again, I think, harsher sentences.

    We’ll see. It looks like April 16th is the trial date for the juveniles.

  • There are quite a few newsy tidbits in your post.

    He does not have a previous record, unlike at least two of the juveniles.

    Source on the previous criminal record? Or just gossip?

    He did not rob anyone, as it seems that one of the girls involved did (finding the stolen purse in her house is pretty solid evidence in my book).

    The purse you mention was from attack #5. It was indeed recovered (reportedly) in the residence of one of the girls facing charges. But the robber was male.

    And he didn’t use a weapon, or have one in his possession (I believe a gun was recovered from one of the minors).

    Source on the gun story? Or just gossip?

    There’s nothing inherently incorrect with gossip, I suppose — and this seems as good of a place as any to share.

  • Anyone know who the juveniles have as legal counsel?

  • From the Daily Progress(03/29/02):

    By ADRIENNE SCHWISOW

    Daily Progress staff writer

    The Charlottesville teenagers charged with a string of recent assaults on college students near the University of Virginia will not face hate-crime charges, the city’s prosecutor said Thursday, after the only adult charged in the attacks landed a 30-day jail sentence for a reduced count of assault and battery by mob.

    Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman said he does not have a basis for charging any of the nine black teenagers with hate crimes. He said statements some of the suspects gave police indicating the victims were selected because of race were made generally and without implicating any individuals.

    “There may be some hint of race-based motivation in a small subset, but there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Chapman said.

    The prosecutor said he attributes the five attacks on white and Asian students in January and September to a range of motivations, from peer pressure and youths getting their kicks to general “anger and aggression,” and resentment of UVa students.

    One of those arrested in the attacks, 18-year-old Gordon Lathan Fields, released a statement Thursday after his trial stating that he joined the assault on three UVa students Jan. 25 because he saw a female friend fighting with two men and thought, mistakenly, that she had been attacked.

    “I tried to pull one of the students off of my friend and I got into a separate fight with him. What I should have done was to pull my friend away from the fight, both because she was in the wrong to begin with, and because she apparently kept fighting with the person that she had attacked, and she apparently hurt him seriously,” Fields wrote in a three-paragraph apology and explanation.

    Chapman said Fields admitted punching one of the three men attacked between two and eight times, but described Fields’ role in the attack as “secondary.”

    “Gordon did not know his friends were planning on attacking UVa students,” Fields’ lawyer, J. Lloyd Snook III, said.

    According to the plea agreement presented by Chapman and accepted by General District Judge Robert H. Downer Jr., Fields pleaded guilty to assault and battery by mob, a misdemeanor. Chapman reduced that charge from the original felony Fields faced, malicious wounding.

    According to the terms of the agreement, Downer sentenced Fields to 30 days in jail, with an additional five months suspended, to be served beginning June 24, after school lets out. Fields also must pay restitution to the three victims of the Jan. 25 attack and perform 50 hours of community service or participate in the city’s budding restorative justice program, a mediation-like project designed to heal the community and victims after a crime has occurred.

    Fields also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against others accused in the beatings.

    The Charlottesville High School senior declined to comment after Thursday’s trial, except through Snook and his statement.

    Like the other teenagers charged with felonies, Fields has been attending the city’s alternative school since his arrest Feb. 1. Snook said Fields hopes to play football in college, but has not selected a school.

    Robert Thompson, the principal at Charlottesville High School, said it is his understanding that the teenagers, including Fields, will be allowed to return to the high school if they are acquitted or convicted only of misdemeanors.

    The other eight teenagers arrested, both males and females, are juveniles whose names have not been released by police or prosecutors. They are scheduled to appear in the city’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on April 16, Snook said.

    The arrests and initial statements by police indicating the suspects named race as a factor have drawn national attention to Charlottesville. They also have prompted some in the community to form a variety of ad hoc committees to discuss race relations and tensions between the city and UVa, to raise money for the suspects’ legal defense (and to a lesser extent compensate the victims for medical expenses), and to brainstorm extracurricular opportunities the city can implement to keep young people out of trouble.

    The leader of the group, the Rev. Alvin Edwards, a former mayor, said after Thursday’s trial that race problems persist in Charlottesville.

    “You’ll always have racial tension when you have Caucasians who were involved who weren’t charged,” Edwards said.

    Police affidavits indicate that two white teenage girls were present in at least one of the attacks, one as a driver of the car used to leave the scene. They have not been charged.

  • I too think his sentence for the crime he was convicted of was fair. If Fields story is true he got what he deserved but no more. Now he’s got to testify and help prove the guilt of his friends.

    Recently I heard one of the victims recount their story. The attack was savage, injured the victim and really messed with this person’s sense of safety and security. Gordon Fields friends attacked and injured more people than he did and they should receive more punishment than he did.

    I hope that sitting on the stand and testifying against his friends is something that will really hurt and make him realize the folly of his violent stupidity.

  • Hate-crime charges will not be filed

    Charlottesville attacks at issue

    BY CARLOS SANTOS

    TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

    Mar 29, 2002

    CHARLOTTESVILLE – Hate-crime charges will not be brought against any of the 10 black teen-agers accused of randomly assaulting people near the University of Virginia, the commonwealth’s attorney said yesterday.

    The evidence is not strong enough, Charlottesville prosecutor Dave Chapman said. “There is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Chapman made the remarks immediately after the only adult of the 10 teens charged pleaded guilty in city court to a lesser charge of assault and battery by mob. The plea by 18-year-old Gordon L. Fields of Charlottesville was part of a plea bargain. The conviction is a misdemeanor.

    Fields, who had been charged with felony malicious wounding, was sentenced to six months in jail with five suspended. He also must perform 50 hours of community service, pay restitution for victim medical costs and cooperate with prosecutors by testifying against the others charged.

    Police initially said it appeared that the series of five attacks against 10 victims was based on race – several of the arrested teens told police that the victims were chosen because they appeared to be white. The attacks occurred between September 2001 and January.

    Chapman said he believed the attacks were motivated by some envy-based resentment of U.Va. students, by anger and aggression, by a desire for fun and excitement, and by peer pressure.

    Virginia law allows several misdemeanor charges, including assault and battery, to be enhanced to a felony if the motivation for an attack is based on race, religious conviction or national origin.

    Chapman said there was “some hint of race-based motivation that might apply to a very small subset of those involved.”

    But he said statements made to city police about racial motivation were “limited . . . extremely equivocal, universally qualified and general not specific. . . . It doesn’t begin to rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    “There was also a mixture of races among the victims,” including Asians, according to Chapman. “Nothing was reported from the victims as the attacks unfolded to suggest racial epithets were used.”

    The European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group led by former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke, has demanded that the attackers be charged with hate crimes. It threatened to protest in the city if such charges were not brought.

    Black leaders in Charlottesville have started a fund-raising drive to help the defendants and victims.

    Fields was charged with attacking John Gu, a U.Va. student, on Jan. 25. Fields struck Gu seven or eight times with his fists, Chapman said. The fight involved three U.Va. stu- dents, a group of juveniles and Fields.

    Chapman said that specifically in Fields’ case, there was “not the slightest bit of evidence” that the attack was racially motivated.

    Chapman said several of the juveniles were attacking the three U.Va. students when Fields stepped in “with the misguided thought one of his female friends was in jeopardy. . . . His role appeared to be secondary to the role of the others.”

    Fields, in a statement released to reporters after his plea, apologized for his actions.

    He said he did not know some of his friends were going to commit the attack.

    “At the time, I was reacting to the fact that two male students were fighting with my female friend. I went over to try to break it up. I tried to pull one of the students off of my friend, and I got into a separate fight with him.

    “What I should have done was to pull my friend away from the fight, both because she was in the wrong to begin with, and because she apparently kept fighting with the person that she had attacked, and she apparently hurt him seriously.”

    Fields, a football standout at Charlottesville High School, was expelled because of the then-pending felony charge. He now is enrolled in a city alternative school. His lawyer, Lloyd Snook, said Fields will attempt to re-enroll at Charlottesville High.

    Chapman said he agreed to reduce the charge against Fields to a misdemeanor after consulting with the victims. Chapman also said Fields had a clean record, and he wanted to keep Fields’ punishment in proportion to that which can be meted out to juveniles. Fields had turned 18 just four days before the attack.

    But Chapman termed Fields’ involvement as serious. “This was a very serious matter when people are attacked by strangers and not doing anything but walking down the street,” the prosecutor said.

    The victims, who included males and females, sustained injuries ranging from scrapes to concussions. One victim suffered a broken cheekbone.

    The juveniles, who are all from Charlottesville, are charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor assault to robbery to malicious wounding. They are expected to appear in juvenile court next month.

  • Hate-crime charges will not be filed

    Charlottesville attacks at issue

    BY CARLOS SANTOS

    TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

    Mar 29, 2002

    CHARLOTTESVILLE – Hate-crime charges will not be brought against any of the 10 black teen-agers accused of randomly assaulting people near the University of Virginia, the commonwealth’s attorney said yesterday.

    The evidence is not strong enough, Charlottesville prosecutor Dave Chapman said. “There is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Chapman made the remarks immediately after the only adult of the 10 teens charged pleaded guilty in city court to a lesser charge of assault and battery by mob. The plea by 18-year-old Gordon L. Fields of Charlottesville was part of a plea bargain. The conviction is a misdemeanor.

    Fields, who had been charged with felony malicious wounding, was sentenced to six months in jail with five suspended. He also must perform 50 hours of community service, pay restitution for victim medical costs and cooperate with prosecutors by testifying against the others charged.

    Police initially said it appeared that the series of five attacks against 10 victims was based on race – several of the arrested teens told police that the victims were chosen because they appeared to be white. The attacks occurred between September 2001 and January.

    Chapman said he believed the attacks were motivated by some envy-based resentment of U.Va. students, by anger and aggression, by a desire for fun and excitement, and by peer pressure.

    Virginia law allows several misdemeanor charges, including assault and battery, to be enhanced to a felony if the motivation for an attack is based on race, religious conviction or national origin.

    Chapman said there was “some hint of race-based motivation that might apply to a very small subset of those involved.”

    But he said statements made to city police about racial motivation were “limited . . . extremely equivocal, universally qualified and general not specific. . . . It doesn’t begin to rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    “There was also a mixture of races among the victims,” including Asians, according to Chapman. “Nothing was reported from the victims as the attacks unfolded to suggest racial epithets were used.”

    The European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group led by former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke, has demanded that the attackers be charged with hate crimes. It threatened to protest in the city if such charges were not brought.

    Black leaders in Charlottesville have started a fund-raising drive to help the defendants and victims.

    Fields was charged with attacking John Gu, a U.Va. student, on Jan. 25. Fields struck Gu seven or eight times with his fists, Chapman said. The fight involved three U.Va. stu- dents, a group of juveniles and Fields.

    Chapman said that specifically in Fields’ case, there was “not the slightest bit of evidence” that the attack was racially motivated.

    Chapman said several of the juveniles were attacking the three U.Va. students when Fields stepped in “with the misguided thought one of his female friends was in jeopardy. . . . His role appeared to be secondary to the role of the others.”

    Fields, in a statement released to reporters after his plea, apologized for his actions.

    He said he did not know some of his friends were going to commit the attack.

    “At the time, I was reacting to the fact that two male students were fighting with my female friend. I went over to try to break it up. I tried to pull one of the students off of my friend, and I got into a separate fight with him.

    “What I should have done was to pull my friend away from the fight, both because she was in the wrong to begin with, and because she apparently kept fighting with the person that she had attacked, and she apparently hurt him seriously.”

    Fields, a football standout at Charlottesville High School, was expelled because of the then-pending felony charge. He now is enrolled in a city alternative school. His lawyer, Lloyd Snook, said Fields will attempt to re-enroll at Charlottesville High.

    Chapman said he agreed to reduce the charge against Fields to a misdemeanor after consulting with the victims. Chapman also said Fields had a clean record, and he wanted to keep Fields’ punishment in proportion to that which can be meted out to juveniles. Fields had turned 18 just four days before the attack.

    But Chapman termed Fields’ involvement as serious. “This was a very serious matter when people are attacked by strangers and not doing anything but walking down the street,” the prosecutor said.

    The victims, who included males and females, sustained injuries ranging from scrapes to concussions. One victim suffered a broken cheekbone.

    The juveniles, who are all from Charlottesville, are charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor assault to robbery to malicious wounding. They are expected to appear in juvenile court next month.

  • Full story is here.

    Here’s a quick quote:

    J. Lloyd Snook III, Fields’s attorney, said the incident occurred as two carloads of teenagers were returning from a basketball game. He said the teenagers, all of whom are black, had gotten into an argument that involved name-calling earlier that day with a group of white young people at a restaurant. He said Fields did not know that any of his friends might have been planning to assault white students near the university.

  • Full story is here.

  • Yeah, right – like it matters.

  • The actual people represented in the existing Charlottesville City Council have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to meet in closed session in violation of state law, dismissing obvious conflicts of interest as a matter of course, and I suspect other transgressions that would have been revealed more clearly and perhaps even prevented completely had there been any sort of opposition party members involved.

    If we are fortunate enough to have a non-Democrat elected this year, watch the Council magically change for the better and all of a sudden become accountable – and it will only take one single person to do that.

    These people are totally out of control, out of touch, and often out of bounds. They profess to wanting Charlottesville ot be a World Class City, but they’re using third-rate talent to try to accomplish that worthy goal.

    As for the previous question of whether or not single-party rule is good or bad, fuckin’-A it’s bad! When issues are discussed without any real opposition or meaningful dissent, then issues aren’t really discussed, are they? It’s all just a public show, nothing more.

    I suppose it would be kind of like walking into a courtroom when the mayor, past mayor, commonwealth’s attorney, defense attorney, and probably even the judge are all on the same page before the fact. Certainly allows for expediency, doesn’t it?

    Is it not a severe and obvious conflict of interest to have a commonwealth’s attorney try a case against a defense attorney that is head of the party who got him elected? If said CA were a Republican, can you imagine the outrage from the various concerned citizen groups?

    This entire matter doesn’t even approach passing any sort of giggle or smell test I can think of. Where is the Department of Justice when you really need them?

    On the local level, at least, I think I need to start thinking of myself as a recovering Democrat. I’ve had it with these clowns.

  • Yeah, right – like it matters.

    Huh? What?

    And, by the way, do you know the election date?

  • Political Notebook:

    Many hurt by reaction to attacks

    By BOB GIBSON

    Daily Progress staff writer

    The news that finally emerged from court involved a well-dressed and soft-spoken Charlottesville teenager who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge.

    The news also included statements from the city’s chief prosecutor that the evidence does not support hate-crime charges in the teenager’s case or in any of a publicized series of assaults on college students near the University of Virginia.

    The law requires specific evidence to convict individuals of hate-crimes charges, or any other offense, and the evidence in these assaults is that motivations other than race were primary and provable.

    Lawyers on both sides of the assault case involving 18-year-old Gordon Lathan Fields said Thursday that his role was secondary, in that he thought he was coming to the defense of a female friend who turned out to be an instigator of the Jan. 25 attacks on three UVa students.

    Others involved

    These cases have touched a lot of individuals, not only the 11 students attacked in the unprovoked assaults from September through January. Motivations of the teenagers involved have been the subject of a lot of speculation, and soul-searching, in this community and beyond.

    Students and teachers at Charlottesville High School, which most of the nine defendants attended, were baffled and hurt by reactions to the news that surfaced Feb. 3 detailing the first six arrests and outlining police statements about racial motivations of some involved.

    Irresponsible radio talk-show hosts and white-supremacist group spokesmen, perhaps informed more by opinion and prejudice than fact, started calling for hate-crime prosecutions of the young black defendants.

    Responding Thursday to questions about motives, City Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman said some envy-based resentment against UVa students was one of “a variety of different motives” present among the teenagers attacking the students in assaults near Rugby Road’s Beta Bridge.

    “There will be peer pressure. There will be anger and aggression” and a desire for fun and excitement present among the various motives of the teenage attackers, Chapman said. “I think it was different from person to person.”

    “Some hint of race-based motivation that might apply to a very small subset of those involved” did not apply to Fields, Chapman said. In Fields’ case, “there was not the slightest bit of evidence”that he was motivated by race.

    Fields, a Charlottesville High School football star and the only adult charged (as he had passed his 18th birthday by four days), was handed a 30-day jail sentence for his part in the assaults and was ordered to perform 50 hours of community service, plus repay victims’ medical expenses.

    Primary motives

    In deciding not to prosecute any of the eight juvenile defendants on hate-crime charges, Chapman said that even though three of the teenagers had told police that victims were selected because they appeared white, there was not proof of racial motivation beyond a reasonable doubt. The statements made to police about racial motivation were “limited [and] extremely equivocal, universally qualified and general, not specific.”

    Lacking evidence to prove racial intent by specific individuals, the prosecution will proceed with other charges against the eight other juvenile defendants who, like Fields, are black. A white female juvenile, one of two young whites who accompanied the black juveniles on at least one occasion, also may be charged.

    Discussions of race relations at CHS and throughout the community have been passionate, with students at the racially diverse high school angered by some of the stereotypes and nasty racial assumptions being tossed around.

    Elizabeth Ochs, a thoughtful CHS student who is editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, the Knight-Time Review, published a special edition late this month that captured some of the school’s voices under the headline: “We’ve heard what the local leaders think. We’ve heard what national organizations think. What do we think?”

    Jonathan Spivey, a teacher who also attended Thursday’s guilty plea and misdemeanor sentencing of Fields, told the newspaper, “I think we need to continue to build a bridge. We need to provide support for the students, the victims and their families. I’m really proud of the students for the letter that was written from the Black History Committee. We’ve got to work on promoting CHS.”

    A newspaper student poll asked, “Is there racial tension [in] our school?” and found 79 percent responded “no” and 21 percent responded “yes.”

    Asked the same question, teacher Robert Deane replied, “I don’t think there is racial tension, racial hatred, or racial dislike in our school. I am concerned that I see one group of students meeting and bonding, but the students aren’t reaching out to each other.”

    Media coverage of the assaults perpetrated by Fields and at least eight younger companions is slammed in the student newspaper. Students and teachers feel the media unfairly mentioned their school “as if the school is related to the attacks,” as teacher Laura Doolan put it.

    “Mentioning CHS further promoted general stereotypes,” Doolan said. “They haven’t made up any lies, but my biggest problem with the press is that they don’t manage to provide the same positive news that they give to other schools. That’s where they are negligent.”

    On a personal note, I have had two daughters attend CHS and am proud of the education they have received there and the friendships they’ve formed. One of my daughters said that it is sad to see so much self-segregation by race at the school. That and what tension still is felt don’t reflect on CHS as much as it does on our community, our state, our nation, our history and, yes, ourselves.

    The assaults along Rugby Road were serious crimes that left their victims and the community shaken and somewhat wounded.

    The tension is less palpable than when years ago I covered the murder trial of a white CHS student who shot a black CHS student over a marijuana debt and buried him alive. Justice was done in that case, just as justice and understanding are community goals in these cases.

    And even in a newspaper, not everything is black and white.

  • i agree with that. Makes me start to wonder about whether Edwards has “racist” tendencies or not…

  • Town vs. Gown:

    In Charlottesville, Respect for Principle Takes a Beating

    Apr 02, 2002

    By A. Barton Hinkle

    David Duke has a point.

    It is not a pretty thought, this notion that Duke – part of the sepsis festering in the nation’s racial wounds, a man so malignantly wrong about so much for so long – might be right about a racial matter. But the thought sits there, as impos- sible to ignore as a cockroach on a coun- tertop. Duke’s group, the Eu- ropean-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO, get it?) – a kind of whited sepulchre containing the shade of the Ku Klux Klan that Duke once helped to lead – has been agitating over a situation in Charlottesville. Sadly, Charlottesville seems to have handed the issue to EURO on a platter.

    Here’s the story. The police have arrested nine juveniles and one 18-year-old – all black – in connection with a series of assaults over the past several months. Those assaulted were primarily University of Virginia students of white or Asian ethnicity. The police say several of those arrested admit selecting their victims because they were, or appeared to be, white.

    EURO ASKED the FBI to investigate the attacks. (The FBI declined, but is monitoring the local investigation.) A EURO spokesman says, “We’re just trying to make sure that the state hate-crime act is used in cases where racial prejudice is involved regardless of what race commits the crime.”

    Well. EURO might or might not “just” be trying to ensure racial prejudice is dealt with in an even-handed manner. But regardless of what you think of the group, or of hate-crime laws that criminalize certain thoughts, there is little if any legitimate ground on which to argue against a consistent application of the law, or a consistent approach to sensitive issues.

    IN CHARLOTTESVILLE, however, reaction to the attacks and the revelations about the stated motive epitomize a soft-headed, morally muddled double standard:

    -Police chief Timothy Longo, Sr., says, “Race and everything else aside, these are our kids, on both sides, victims and suspects.”

    -A former mayor and pastor whose congregation includes some of the suspects says class, not race, motivated the attacks. He says local black teens feel UVa is closed to them, and resent it.

    -Mayor Blake Caravati, employing that retch-inducing phrase “teachable moment,” is similarly non-judgmental: “Sure, they did wrong, but they’re our young men and women who are going to live in the community for a long time. We need to be supportive of them.”

    -Rick Turner, UVa’s dean of African-American affairs, says that while he is “not condoning” the assaults, “I think that we have a group of high-school students, particularly African-Americans, who are angry, and I think that anger stems from being left out, historically.”

    -A local retiree says of the incidents: “I believe this was just kids being kids. I don’t think they intended to hurt anybody.”

    -Charlottesville residents were to have held a bake sale to help defray the costs of the victims’ medical bills . . . and help the defendants defray the costs of their legal defense.

    One hates to use the overused argument, what if the positions had been reversed? But suppose they had. Suppose a bunch of white townies had beaten the stuffing out of a bunch of minority students and said race was the reason. What would the general reaction have been?

    It would have been outrage. Pained condemnations of prejudice and bigotry. Perhaps a rally or two on UVa’s Lawn. The thunderous reverberation as yet more “Teach Tolerance” and “Celebrate Diversity” stickers were slapped onto car bumpers and backpacks. If there is one thing Mr. Jefferson’s University and the town will not tolerate, it is intolerance. Or at least intolerance directed toward certain classes of individuals.

    Certainly there would have been far less sympathy for the alleged attackers – far less effort to understand their motives and explain that they are “angry” and resentful.

    Compare the reaction in Charlottesville to incidents elsewhere. When a male JMU student accused of using a homosexual slur got into a fracas with some female rugby players last year, police recorded the incident as a hate crime. There was no outpouring of sympathy for him. Three years ago, when racist messages were painted on a black church in Franklin County (the FBI investigated that one), no one stepped forward to speculate about why the perpetrators might have done what they did. In 1999, two white-supremacist, Nazi-admiring brothers were indicted in Henrico on charges of “conspiracy to incite one race to insurrection against the other race.” Nobody held a bake sale for them.

    THOSE IN Charlottesville who would treat the perpetrators of the assaults with kid gloves probably think they are being sensitive and enlightened. They aren’t. They’re being prejudiced.

    How? They are treating the suspects with condescension: The poor things, victims of historical inequity and iniquity, have been conditioned by their environment. They felt resentful and were just lashing out. Like a dog that’s been kicked one time too many, perhaps? Nobody makes excuses for the gap-toothed Appalachian hillbilly who burns a cross on a black family’s lawn – no matter how poor, angry, or resentful he might be. No one suggests the community be “supportive.” It is assumed that he should know better – and that assumption accords him dignity. It says: You are supposed to be a better person than that. Making excuses for the Charlottesville suspects denies them a similar expectation and a similar dignity.

    Equality before the law does not mean equality only when it works in your favor. Maybe the assaults resulted from a dare, some kind of initiation, or just a twisted lark. But if Virginia’s hate-crime statute would be invoked in whites-on-blacks assaults, then shrinking from invoking it – shrinking from even raising the question – in blacks-on-whites assaults amounts to a rejection of equal treatment. True believers in equality are not afraid to face the consequences of it.

    Those who would mollycoddle the Charlottesville suspects are not doing society a favor, either. They are giving ammunition to groups such as EURO that play upon white resentment. When Duke came to Richmond during the controversy over the mural of Robert E. Lee at the Canal Walk, he started speaking about the Confederacy – but soon segued to affirmative action, inner-city crime, immigration, Black Entertainment Television, and the rape of white women by black men. In his speech at the Best Western-Hanover House Motor Lodge back in 1999, Duke said whites today enjoy fewer rights than Rosa Parks had when she refused to give up her seat on the bus. His audiences would have eaten this story up.

    Why would anyone in Charlottesville want to cede the moral high ground to a man like that?

  • You have a chance to vote for a credible, thoughtful, reputable Republican on May 7th. ROB SCHILLING. Don’t blow it!

  • J. Lloyd Snook III, Fields’s attorney, said the incident occurred as two carloads of teenagers were returning from a basketball game.

    I suppose this was the Boy’s Varsity CHS-William Monroe (at William Monroe HS in Greene Co.) game.

    [Snook] said the teenagers, all of whom are black, had gotten into an argument that involved name-calling earlier that day with a group of white young people at a restaurant.

    So, after the game, the two cars of CHS students [perhaps communicating between them via cellphone] came through the Venable neighborhood looking for what sort of victims to target for attack?

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