A Black man assaulted by a group of white men is facing criminal charges related to the incident. According to the man, who is a local civil rights activist and a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, called 911 after being assaulted by five men. The men accused him of trespassing on private property. The victim apologized and said he was not aware, but the situation escalated quickly when the men tried to teach him a lesson.
According to the victim, the men threatened to break his arms and “get a noose.” One of the men was wearing a confederate flag hat, while others were chanting white power. Cellphone video captured some of the event.
Two of the white men face charges of felony criminal confinement and battery resulting in moderate bodily injury. The white men maintained that they were threatened first and that the complainant was trespassing. Their lawyers claim that the two are victims of a smear campaign to jacket them as white supremacists. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recommended charges be filed against all involved in the incident, but Monroe County prosecutors initially only filed charges against the two white men. Now the victim will have to face charges related to trespassing and battery. The FBI also said they are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
What is trespassing? It is one of the simplest laws to define. You intentionally access someone else’s property without their permission. Here, trespassing is a crime of intent. You cannot accidentally wander onto someone else’s property and be charged with trespassing. If a property owner tells you that you are on private property and asks you to leave, then you have an obligation to leave. In this case, it appears that the victim was asked to leave, apologized for wandering onto private property, and was still beaten up.
Meanwhile, the FBI is still questioning witnesses in the alleged assault and will make a determination as to whether or not hate crime charges are appropriate for this prosecution. Both defendants deny mentioning a noose, but circumstantial evidence can be used against them during their prosecutions.
Nonetheless, unless prosecutors can actually prove that the victim intended to access private property without permission, then they will have no case against him, and the two witnesses to the attack will likely be unable to provide believable testimony. They will still argue that the victim initiated the attack. It may be difficult to prove otherwise, but witnesses to the event may be sympathetic.
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