2 Out Of 3 Charges Dropped Against Christopher Cantwell After Accuser Changes Story

Chris Menahan
Nov. 09, 2017

Libertarian turned white nationalist Christopher Cantwell was facing potentially 60 years in prison for allegedly pepper-spraying two antifa members at the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally earlier this year.

After being denied bail and held for over three months in prison, Cantwell finally had a preliminary hearing on Thursday. Two out of three charges against him were dropped after one of his accusers was found to have changed his story.

From CBS 19 NEWS:
Christopher Cantwell was initially charged with illegal use of a gas, illegal use of a gas with malice, and unlawful injury by means of a toxic substance.

After a six-hour preliminary hearing that included testimony from Cantwell's two accusers and Cantwell himself, Judge William Barkley dismissed the bodily injury and malicious use of gas charges. He cited a change in witness testimony and a lack of evidence showing that Cantwell acted with malice.

[...]One of Cantwell's accusers, Kristopher Goad, who lives in Richmond, testified Thursday morning that he had misidentified Cantwell in his original complaint as the person who attacked him with pepper gel. He said Cantwell did use pepper spray against him at another point that night.
[...]Cantwell's second accuser, Emily Gorcenski, testified that she was pepper sprayed on August 11, and figured out Cantwell was to blame from photos and videos posted online after the incident showing Cantwell releasing pepper spray.
Woodard noted that Gorcenski had already tracked Cantwell down at Walmart earlier in the day, and he described her as "an antifa operative who stalked my client," an accusation Gorcenski denied.

"My belief is that it was his spray and no one else's," she said on the stand.

[...]The single charge will now be sent to a grand jury. Cantwell remains at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail.
NBC 29 has more:
The judge is allowing a charge of releasing a caustic agent to be taken up by a grand jury.

The charges of illegal uses of gases maliciously and unlawfully were dropped, because a witness who filed the complaint said he was not sure if Cantwell himself directly pepper sprayed him. The judge said so many people had cans of pepper spray that night that certain attacks could not be directly related to Cantwell.
Here's the charges for "releasing a caustic agent" from Virginia code 18.2-52.:
Malicious bodily injury by means of any caustic substance or agent or use of any explosive or fire.

If any person maliciously causes any other person bodily injury by means of any acid, lye or other caustic substance or agent or use of any explosive or fire, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in a state correctional facility for a period of not less than five years nor more than thirty years. If such act is done unlawfully but not maliciously, the offender shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.
Cantwell said in an interview from jail after the trial that the remaining charge is a Class 3 felony:
(c) For Class 3 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than five years nor more than 20 years and, subject to subdivision (g), a fine of not more than $100,000.
Cantwell is arguing he used the pepper-spray in self-defense. Cantwell said he pepper-sprayed the man in the beanie below after the man charged at him:

That man is not one of his accusers.

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