CHARLOTTESVILLE — The fourth white supremacist arrested and convicted for his role in an attack on a 20-year-old African American man during the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was sentenced Tuesday to a little more than two years in prison.
Tyler Watkins Davis, 51, of Middleburg, Fla., had entered an Alford plea in February on a malicious wounding charge in the vicious — and widely seen — beating of DeAndre Harris, a former special education instructional assistant.
The plea meant that Davis, who belonged to the extremist group League of the South, acknowledged prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict him if the case had gone to trial. Even though Davis’s assault on Harris probably resulted in Harris’s worst injury, he was given less time behind bars — two years and one month — than the three other defendants already sentenced in the case.
Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard E. Moore said he gave Davis the lighter punishment because he hit Harris only once, as opposed to the other assailants who stomped or struck Harris multiple times.
But Moore did not hold back in rebuking Davis. The judge said Davis had no reason to strike Harris with a stick and could have easily just walked away from the melee. Although Davis hit Harris only one time, it was a blow that tore a gash in his skull that ultimately needed eight staples.
“This is one of the most disturbing and saddest videos I’ve seen in my entire life,” Moore said. He said that when Harris tried escaping from the attack, he “looked like a frightened, terrorized animal.”
“DeAndre Harris could have easily died,” the judge said.
Davis’s sentencing capped more than a year’s worth of prosecutions for the attack on Harris, which was captured on video and spread virally across the Internet. Jacob S. Goodwin of Arkansas, who wore a body-length shield and military helmet while kicking Harris on the ground, got an eight-year sentence; Alex Michael Ramos of Georgia received six years; and Daniel Borden of Ohio was sentenced to nearly four years.
Two other assailants from the attack remain at large. Law enforcement authorities have so far failed to identify or capture them, despite ample photographs and footage of them online beating Harris and marching during other moments of the rally. One of the men, with short blond hair, was wearing sunglasses, khaki pants and a tucked-in white long-sleeve shirt. The other sported a ball cap and a red beard. Authorities have nicknamed the first “Sunglasses” or “Preppy” and the second “Red Beard.”
Harris was beaten so badly that law enforcement authorities said he nearly died. About 90 minutes later, neo-Nazi James A. Fields Jr. rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, a paralegal, and injuring others. Fields was convicted of federal hate crimes and, separately in state court, first-degree murder. He has been sentenced to multiple life terms in prison.
In footage of the Harris beating, Davis is wearing a circular, military-style boonie hat and can be seen striking Harris in the head with a tire thumper, a club-like device used to check an automobile’s tire pressure. Immediately afterward, Harris struggles to lift himself off the floor of the garage, but Goodwin kicks him several times, and then Borden smacks him with a wooden plank and Ramos hits him. “Sunglasses” and “Red Beard” appear to also hit Harris with wooden flagpoles.
Harris attracted the ire of the white supremacists after he had struck one of them in the head with a Maglite flashlight. Harris was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery but was acquitted in March 2018 after a judge determined Harris meant to knock away the white nationalist’s flagpole.
Moments before he was sentenced Tuesday, Davis stood up and faced the judge and apologized to Harris, who along with his family members did not attend the hearing. “I know he suffered,” Davis said, saying he was sorry. “I regret ever coming to Charlottesville, and I regret my actions in the parking garage. I was . . . raging, barely functioning . . . hated life.”
Davis, a former Comcast cable technician, went on to recount his struggles with alcoholism, which he said enabled him to get “sucked into negative websites.”
“By day, I was a cable tech, but by night, I was a crusading defender of my people,” he said.
But Davis said his brief stint in jail in Charlottesville, followed by more than a year of home monitoring at his residence in Florida with his wife and 19-year-old adopted autistic son, helped rehabilitate him. He said he is no longer part of the League of the South, does not communicate with anyone in the group and erased all contact information for its members.
In jail, he said, he fell into long conversations with other inmates, many of them minorities and people with different political leanings. “This enabled my humanization process,” he said. “I realized that we are not all that different.”
Davis’s defense attorneys tried hard to persuade Moore not to give him any more time behind bars and asked that he be given additional home electronic monitoring. His wife, mother and son testified or read statements on his behalf and said they needed him at home.
Nina Alice-Antony, senior assistant commonwealth’s attorney, told Moore that Davis deserved at most the same amount of time — three years and 10 months — as Borden received.
“Borden and the others were more culpable,” she said. “But that is not meant to minimize the culpability of Mr. Davis. . . . How easy would it have been for Mr. Davis to walk away [from the parking garage]? To go home? To go back to your wife and your son?”