Are North Carolina Officials to Blame for Silent Sam Attack?

REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Ian McLean Political Analyst
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As the fallout over the toppling of the Silent Sam monument at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill by a mob of leftist activists last week continues, there is one question that has remained unasked and unanswered: Do state officials bear any responsibility for this incident?

According to media reports, one of those charged in the toppling of the Silent Sam monument was Raul Arce (aka Raul Mauro Arce Jimenez), 27, who had been previously tried and found not guilty for his participation in the toppling of the Soldier’s Monument in front of the Durham County Courthouse last August.

Jimenez’s name was released by officials at the University of North Carolina Saturday, along with two other suspects — Jonathan Fitzgerald Fuller, 27 and Lauren Aucoin, 23 — who were charged in last Monday’s incident.

All three were charged with misdemeanor riot and misdemeanor defacing of a public monument.

In the Durham case, the presiding judge, District Court Judge Frederick S. Battaglia Jr., hinted that there simply wasn’t enough evidence to convict Jimenez, who was then freed, while two others were acquitted in the same case.

This, of course, led many to ask how Jimenez had been able to walk away from that incident without any punishment at all, despite being captured on video in broad daylight, only to return the very next year and topple another war memorial.

The answer, of course, was simple: political bias.

During the Durham trial, Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols seemed more like he was defending the suspects instead of prosecuting them.

In an interview in The Atlantic, Echols appears to justify and even condone the actions of the vandals.

“A just resolution must also include balancing accountability for the actual destruction of property in violation of the law with the climate in which these actions were undertaken,” he said. “Justice requires that I must take into account the pain of recent events in Charlottesville and the pain in Durham and the nation.”

He continued, “Justice also requires that I be aware that asking people to be patient and to let various government institutions address injustice is sometimes asking more than those who have historically been ignored, marginalized, or harmed by the system can bear.”

Echols, who was absent during the much of the trial, assigned an Assistant District Attorney, Ameshia Cooper, with little to no experience, who “strained” to identify the suspects in the video.

“I just know I saw a young lady in there with no help,” Judge Battaglia said.

On top of that, before the trials had even begun, county commissioners Heidi Carter and James Hill said they didn’t think the activists should face felonies, which prompted outrage and accusations of political interference in the case from Major Paul Martin in the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.

“Should law enforcement determine the severity of charges for persons who destroy or deface monuments based upon the political leanings of county commissioners?” Maj. Paul Martin said in a statement.

Martin went even further: “Are statements concerning the severity of criminal charges by county commissioners an effort to obstruct justice since they control the budget for the sheriff as well as raises for the sheriff and all his personnel?”

In the end, on February 20, 2018 — one day after Jimenez was found not guilty and the charges against two other suspects were dismissed — Echols argued for all charges to be dropped against the few demonstrators, who had actually been arrested.

District Court Judge Battaglia Jr. granted the request and all the defendants were freed, including one who had already agreed to a plea deal.

And now with the revelation of Jimenez’s involvement in last year’s Durham monument toppling, state officials are facing questions about how past leniency may have played a role in this case.

Orange County District Attorney, Jim Woodall, in a press conference last Wednesday, was asked directly by a reporter if protesters, who were looking at what happened last year in Durham, should be sent a message that they could not take the law into their own hands.

“I try not to send messages to people. I don’t think that’s my job. I think my job’s to prosecute,” he said.

Clearly, however, a message is being sent by certain North Carolina officials: Do what you want.

Ian McLean is a political analyst in Montreal, Canada.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.