- Scott Elmquist
A former member of the Wingnut Anarchist Collective, Jeremy Hawthorne, is scheduled to report for jail April 6. A jury convicted the 27-year-old on charges of felony destruction of property earlier this month. He faces at least a year in prison and at least $1,330 in fines.
Prosecutors accused Hawthorne of puncturing several tires on vehicles owned by the Virginia Commonwealth University police in August. Hawthorne maintains that he’s innocent of the charges.
This isn’t the first time a member of collective has run up against members of law enforcement. The Wingnuts long have made a practice of videotaping police interactions with local residents. The friction between the police and the group came to a head last year, when Richmond police filed a lawsuit against member Moriah “Mo” Karn, seeking the return of documents they gave her, which she obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request. Karn already had posted the documents online, and the suit was dropped after the case made headlines.
Hawthorne, who has since left the collective, acknowledges that a reversal on appeal may not be in the cards. An agreement between his lawyer and the prosecution prevented any mention of the group’s politics during the trial, and prosecutors might be less inclined to enter an agreement if he appeals.
“It’s a risk,” he says. “If you make it about politics and mention anything that anarchists believe in or are possibly capable of in front of a jury or judge, prosecutors are likely to try to make you look like a terrorist.”
As it stands, Hawthorne faces a jury-recommended year in jail on the felony conviction, the minimum sentence for the charge. Hawthorne says he hopes that the judge overturns the verdict and levies the maximum penalty for misdemeanor destruction of property, which is just six months in jail.