2 out of 3 charges against Christopher Cantwell were dropped in preliminary after it was found that witnesses made false testimony.
Instead of charging said witnesses with perjury prosecutor Robert Tracci excused it as “what they believed to be true at the time” and tried to change his entire argument to keep pressing the charges.
Cantwell is still being held until trial on 1 charge of “illegal use of gas”. Judge seemed to buy defense argument that pepper spray was used in self-defense but found that it could not be dismissed in a preliminary motion.
The trial started off with an attorney for Vice News asking to allow cameras into the courtroom. In a singular moment of agreement, both the prosecutor and defense counsel Elmer Woodard agreed that it would create an unsafe and hostile environment for witnesses (Note: this was further corroborated by accounts of over a dozen Antifa pointing out witnesses and saying that they would remember their faces).
The judge denied the motion. Vice anchor Elle Reeve was later asked to leave the courtroom for turning on her phone and using it in the chamber.
Defense attorney Woodard opened up the proceedings like a man on fire. Prosecutor Tracci wanted a brief session in which the judge certified the three felony charges against Cantwell for illegal use of a gas, illegal use of a gas with malice, and unlawful injury by means of a toxic substance.. However based on his theory that the charges were politically motivated and based on false testimony, Woodard dragged it out into a 6 hour trial on whether there was even probable cause to allow charges to go to trial.
The crux of the argument came from a false statement by known Confederate hater Kristopher Goad of Richmond Virginia. In his sworn statement before the magistrate Goad had claimed that Cantwell sprayed him directly in the face. This turned out to be false. In fact, even Goad had admitted to the prosecutor that he only brought charges after being told that Cantwell had sprayed him by Cantwell’s other accuser, Antifa activist Emily Gorcenski. Woodard pointed out that Goad and Gorcenski are political enemies of the accused and had likely colluded to bring false charges against him for that reason.
Goad changed his story to say that he’d been indirectly affected when Cantwell sprayed someone else and he felt “stinging in his eyes” from overspray. Both Goad and Prosecutor Robert Tracci admitted that prior to trial they became aware that the actual sprayer was a “man with a dragon tattoo” who evidently was not a political target for Goad or Gorcenski as they did not pursue charges. Despite this information, not only did Tracci not pursue perjury charges against Goad but tried to adapt his line of prosecution so that he could continue to pursue Cantwell despite knowing that the original warrant was based on false testimony.
A recurring theme of the trial became the political agenda of ostensibly Republican Commonwealth Attorney Robert Tracci. Remember that Cantwell was originally granted bond. Tracci made the highly unusual move of stepping in to shop for a new judge and appeal that bond. At the new hearing, Tracci played clips of Cantwell’s controversial Radical Agenda podcast, convincing the judge that Cantwell’s “hate speech” made him a danger to society. (Note: there is no such thing as “hate speech” laws. So-called “hate speech” is protected speech by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.)
Tracci tried on several occasions to put Cantwell’s politics on trial. Defense attorney Woodard objected on grounds that it had nothing to do with whether Cantwell illegally pepper-sprayed someone. The judge sustained the objection and said he didn’t want to bring politics into it. Immediately after this ruling Robert Tracci continued to try and talk about Cantwell’s political beliefs from different angles and was thoroughly reprimanded by the judge.
At several points, Tracci became visibly upset, embarrassed and red-faced with anger. In one revealing moment he asked a witness about his opinion of the prosecution. “Do you feel that I’m politically motivated? That Mr. Cantwell is a political prisoner?” The judge barred this line of questioning.
The second accuser, Emily Gorcenski, took the stand and didn’t fair much better. Gorcenski also claimed to have been indirectly effected by Cantwell’s use of pepper spray. However the video this individual claimed was the, “best video of what happened” did not show Gorcenski anywhere near Cantwell when he deployed the spray. Gorcenski continued to insist that it did even though Woodard went through the video meticulously frame by frame showing that not to be true.
When confronted with the fact that there were at least four other pepper spray incidents happening around the same time the night of August 11th Gorcenski admitted that it did not know Cantwell was the one who had caused a “sensation” with indirect spray but felt that he was “most likely” the culprit.
The actual person Cantwell sprayed was referred to by the prosecution as “Mister Beanie Man”. He has not come forward. Nevertheless several witnesses testified that Cantwell was justified in using pepper spray on him in self-defense. Beanie Man was allegedly fighting with a man in a white wife beater who knocked him to the ground. Then he hopped to his feet in a fighting stance heading towards Cantwell. It was testified that he had perhaps 4 or 5 angry Antifa joining him in his charge.
Prosecutor Robert Tracci tried to invalidate one witness’ testimony because he didn’t refer to Gorcenski, who is a transexual, by Gorcenski’s preferred gender pronoun. Supposedly calling the witness “he” instead of “she” showed bias that made his testimony inadmissible. The judge didn’t buy this line of argument.
In summation, Woodard offered a passionate argument for the right to self-defense saying, “I’ve never seen a Commonwealth Attorney in my entire career who believed in the right to self-defense.” He also pointed out that accuser Gorcenski had been stalking Cantwell throughout the day of August 11th: following him to a private meet-up at a Wal-Mart parking lot and taking pictures, then following him to the torch march where Gorcenski taunted him, “How did your Wal-Mart meet-up go?”
Woodard said, “She wanted Cantwell to know that she was stalking him!”
Because of both the false statements and the uncertainty caused by so many people using pepper spray at the same time, the most serious charges of malicious use of gas and unlawful bodily injury were dropped due to lack of probable cause to move to trial. Despite the judge acknowledging the right to self-defense he found that the final charge would have to be adjudicated in a trial.
No word yet on a follow-up court date or when Cantwell might be allowed another bond hearing.