S. Lee Merritt

Over the last two months, social media has done the job the Charlottesville, Va., Police Department and the FBI couldn’t. With the aid of Shaun King, they’ve single-handedly tracked down several members of the angry white mob of racists that attacked DeAndre Harris in a Charlottesville parking deck during the infamous Unite the Right rally.

Although charges have been filed against Daniel Borden and Alex Michael Ramos, there are throngs of others who have not yet been identified. But as with many things that went wrong during the Unite the Right rally, it seems as though racism still reigns supreme in Charlottesville, especially when it comes to the felony charges that have now also been filed against Harris.

On Monday the magistrate circumvented the Charlottesville Police Department and filed a felony charge of unlawful wounding against Harris after white “Southern nationalist” Harold Ray Crews stated that he was injured by Harris during an altercation at the rally, Harris’ attorney, S. Lee Merritt, a The Root 100 honoree, says in an interview with The Root. Ironically, Crews failed in his attempt to have charges filed by the Charlottesville Police Department, but within a couple of hours of his contacting the magistrate, charges were filed.

Merritt says that the injuries Crews received were not caused by Harris, who, Merritt says, was in the hospital at the time and being treated for his own injuries, which included head lacerations and a spine injury.

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“He [Crews] was struck in the head with what seemed to be a metal pipe, and he fell to the ground. He did receive those injuries, but it appeared to be from a separate attack that occurred while Deandre was in the hospital,” Merritt tells The Root.

What is also telling is that in photos provided by Merritt, Crews can be seen being struck in the back of his head and falling to the ground, but the attack appears to be by a disguised, white male anti-fascist member.

S. Lee Merritt
S. Lee Merritt

Merritt also dispelled the notion that Harris was seen attacking Crews in a five-second video clip that has been making its rounds on social media, along with various comment sections purporting that Harris hit Crews with a pipe.

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“The incident that DeAndre was involved in showed him [Crews] as the aggressor, driving his pole into [counterprotester] Corey Long, the sharp end of his flag pole. Deandre responded to that defensively, which is an affirmative defense to the charges filed against him,” Merritt says.

“If you look at the video, he doesn’t strike anybody, he never actually makes contact. The level of the charges they filed state that he would have had to [have] caused serious bodily harm, or intended to maim him or kill him. These are the same charges they filed against the men who attacked Deandre. The injuries are not a felony assault by any stretch and are not consistent with the injuries reported to the magistrate,” Merritt continues.

Merritt went on to say that the Charlottesville Police Department is up in arms over the charges and that it would never have filed them. The police received the complaint from Crews and were doing an investigation.

“We were not expecting this. We were expecting to do our own investigation into the man’s allegations,” Charlottesville Detective Sgt. Jake Via told the Washington Post.

“What happened is something I’ve never seen happen before. This white supremacist went to a judge, directly, and left the office with a warrant without police involvement,” Merritt tells The Root.

When contacted by The Root by phone, Avnel Coates, the chief magistrate for the area that includes Charlottesville, would not confirm that she had issued the warrant against Harris; nor would she provide any additional comment.

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As far as Harris is concerned, during my initial interview with him in August, even after being brutalized, he seemed to be in good spirits, but Merritt says that he’s seen a big change in Harris emotionally, and that he’s literally afraid to return to Charlottesville out of fear of being attacked or killed.

“He doesn’t understand how this was allowed to go this far. He’s petrified to return to Charlottesville, which is why he left his job and career. They’re forcing him to come down and face these charges within a government that seems to have to at least be complicit in some part to his injuries, and being very slow in issuing warrants against his attackers,” Merritt says.

Merritt and Shaun King have both identified yet another person involved in Harris’ attack: Jacob Scott Goodwin, a 22-year-old from Ward, Ark. Goodwin, who was tracked down because of social media, was arrested by Ward police early Wednesday morning. Though police would not confirm the charges against Goodwin, they told The Root that he was arrested in connection with the attack on Harris.

“We turned in information on Goodwin almost three weeks ago,” lawyer Merritt says of Goodwin. “He’s seen on video bludgeoning Deandre with a blunt object. He’s been identified by his friends and family. He’s been identified by the tattoos on his body.”

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As for Harris, Merritt did not say when his client was going to turn himself in, but he did note that Charlottesville law enforcement was giving him time to do so, and said they were attempting to let people know that they were not behind the issuing of the warrant.