Monday, March 14, 2016

Did Trump Incite a Riot in North Carolina?

Trigger Warning:
Behold! A riot in progress...apparently.
Previous Post:  What's Wrong With Hillary?

Did Donald Trump incite a riot during his rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina last week?  That's a question that the Cumberland county sheriff's attorney is taking a keen interest in:
You'll remember the Fayetteville rally is the now-infamous Donald Trump event where a Trump supporter sucker punched a protester as he was being escorted out by police:
A black protester being escorted out of a Donald J. Trump campaign rally on Wednesday in Fayetteville, N.C., was sucker-punched and shoved by a Trump supporter, several videos on social media show.

The protester, identified by The Washington Post as Rakeem Jones, 26, was being walked by sheriff’s officers up an aisle at the Crown Coliseum, amid loud boos from the crowd, when a white man in a cowboy hat stepped toward Mr. Jones, punched him in the face and shoved him off-balance.

Mr. Jones stumbled, then could be seen on the floor surrounded by sheriff’s deputies. In some of the videos, at least two deputies who were following Mr. Jones up the arena steps could be seen walking past the man who had just punched Mr. Jones.
The man who punched the protester, 78-year-old John McGraw, has since been charged with assault.  McGraw also stated later "the next time we see him, we might have to kill him."

The charges against John McGraw are appropriate, I feel.  He did, after all, punch Rakeem Jones.  It's hard to argue with that when it's been caught on video and shown nationally so many times.  Did Jones deserve what he got?  Yeah he probably did.  Does McGraw deserve to face the consequences of his actions in a court of law?  Absolutely.

The issue is whether or not the sheriff's office can actually charge Donald Trump with inciting a riot.  He sure as hell doesn't feel any sympathy for Jones.  In fact, Trump has said he's thinking about putting up money to defend McGraw.  The Donald has also lamented the "good old days" where protesters would be carried out on stretchers.  Harsh rhetoric to be sure, but does that mean Donald Trump should be charged with inciting a riot?

Let's take a quick look at the North Carolina penal code:
a)        A riot is a public disturbance involving an assemblage of three or more persons which by disorderly and violent conduct, or the imminent threat of disorderly and violent conduct, results in injury or damage to persons or property or creates a clear and present danger of injury or damage to persons or property.

(b)        Any person who willfully engages in a riot is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

(c)        Any person who willfully engages in a riot is guilty of a Class H felony, if:

(1)        In the course and as a result of the riot there is property damage in excess of fifteen hundred dollars ($1,500) or serious bodily injury; or

(2)        Such participant in the riot has in his possession any dangerous weapon or substance.

(d)       Any person who willfully incites or urges another to engage in a riot, so that as a result of such inciting or urging a riot occurs or a clear and present danger of a riot is created, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

(e)        Any person who willfully incites or urges another to engage in a riot, and such inciting or urging is a contributing cause of a riot in which there is property damage in excess of fifteen hundred dollars ($1,500) or serious bodily injury, shall be punished as a Class F felon. (1969, c. 869, s. 1; 1979, c. 760, s. 5; 1979, 2nd Sess., c. 1316, s. 47; 1981, c. 63, s. 1, c. 179, s. 14; 1993, c. 539, ss. 187, 188, 1225, 1226; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c).)
So lets look at this rally through the lens of whether or not it can be called a "riot."  It was indeed a gathering of three or more people.  Was their conduct violent or disorderly, though?  David A. Graham of The Atlantic was there, and wrote about his experience and what he saw:
A few weeks ago, a Guardian journalist wrote, “Attending a Trump rally is a nervy thing for a journalist … It is quite a feeling to be among a crowd of thousands who would gladly tear you to pieces, given the right circumstances.” That’s not my impression. Yes, Trump always takes time to bash the media; in Fayetteville, he mocked photographers every time they swung their lenses around to snap the latest protester removal. Several attendees gently scolded me over what they see as unfair coverage. But suggesting many of them wish to engage in direct violence against reporters gives them too little credit. They’re perfectly able to distinguish between an individual reporter and the press they loathe as a whole. Two recent moments of violence against journalists at Trump events have come at the hands of a Secret Service agent and Trump’s campaign manager, not attendees.
Graham writes that there was "implicit violence" in Trump's speech.  The crowd, however, didn't seem to be violent at all.  After all it was only one man who actually assaulted someone.  You would think a riot would have at least two or three violent people there.  I was also unable to find any instances of property damage caused by the crowd.  That's something that certainly would have been reported by every major media outlet had it actually happened.  The Fayetteville Trump rally doesn't seem to meet North Carolina's definition of a riot.

That brings us to the one injury reported during the rally, that of Rakeem Jones himself.  He was certainly hurt when "Quick Draw" McGraw (yes, that's actually his nickname) gave him a right hook out of nowhere.  Did he suffer serious bodily injury, though?  Several news outlets reported that he did not.  Wounded pride doesn't count.  Besides, he was well enough to go on national television and talk about the horror he endured:
So if you're keeping score we have no serious bodily harm, and no property damage totaling more than $1,500.  The Cumberland county sheriff is welcome to try and charge Donald Trump if they want.  It doesn't seem like there are any legal grounds to actually charge him with inciting a riot.  I doubt there would ever be a trial.

Update: Cumberland County Sheriff's Office says nevermind:
"With respect to the potential of lodging charges of inciting a riot against Donald J. Trump, or the Trump Committee, we have reviewed the evidence accumulated, and consulted with the detectives involved," a Sheriffs Office news release said later Monday. " The Sheriff's Office legal counsel advised, and the Sheriff concurred, that the evidence does not meet the requisites of the law as established under the relevant North Carolina statute and case law to support a conviction of the crime of inciting a riot."
Of course a spokesman for the sheriff's office pointed out that even considering charges against Donald Trump was NOT a political move AT ALL.  Even though the sheriff is a Democrat, of course.
Oh, and Rakeem Jones?  He's gotten a lawyer and plans on suing the sheriff's office, natch.

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