John Franklin McGraw, who elbowed and threatened a protester at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump earlier this year, was sentenced to 12 months of probation Wednesday, resolving one of the first violent clashes in a historically tense presidential campaign that deepened racial and political divisions across the country.
McGraw’s threats and assault of Rakeem Jones, 27, captured in a viral video, became a flash point in the presidential campaign and focused attention on the raucous atmosphere at Trump rallies. In the video, McGraw, 79, speculated whether Jones was a member of a “terrorist organization” and wondered whether “next time, we might have to kill him.”
McGraw pleaded no contest to charges of misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct. An additional misdemeanor charge of communicating threats was dismissed. Although the case took on racial overtones because McGraw is white and Jones is African American, McGraw’s attorney, James C. MacRae, said McGraw’s actions were not motivated by racial animosity.
“I’m extremely sorry this happened,” McGraw told Jones during a hearing in Cumberland County District Court in Fayetteville, N.C. “I hate it worse than anything in the world.”
McGraw shook hands with Jones, and the pair hugged as the courtroom erupted in applause.
“As far as race, not one time throughout this whole six months have I mentioned his race. I got hit by a man, period,” Jones said. “As far as race, I don’t know. It’s not my concern. I got hit by a man.”
— Terrence McCoy
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been spared prosecution on a contempt-of-court charge for refusing to hand over 50 hard drives from a secret investigation, eliminating one legal problem for the lawman as he prepares to go on trial in the spring on a separate contempt count.
The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton backed up claims made two months ago by prosecutors that the statute of limitations bars them from pushing a criminal contempt case against Arpaio and top sheriff’s aide Jerry Sheridan for withholding the hard drives.
The ruling, however, doesn’t put Arpaio, 84, in the clear.
He still faces an April 4 trial on a misdemeanor contempt charge for prolonging his signature immigration patrols for 17 months after a judge in a racial-profiling case had ordered them stopped.
And prosecutors said in October that they are conducting obstruction-of-justice investigations against Arpaio for withholding the hard drives and against two sheriff’s aides and an Arpaio lawyer for concealing evidence in a separate investigation into alleged officer misconduct. Obstruction of justice is a felony that carries a punishment of 15 to 37 months in prison.
Arpaio, who became a national political figure by cracking down on illegal immigration and jailing inmates in tents, is leaving office in three weeks after losing his bid for a seventh term.
— Associated Press
An executive order issued by Louisiana’s governor that was aimed at protecting the rights of LGBT people in state government was thrown out Wednesday by a judge who said the governor exceeded his authority.
State District Judge Todd Hernandez ruled that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’s anti-discrimination order is unconstitutional because it seeks to create or expand state law. The order prohibited discrimination in government and state contracts based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The decision delivered a significant victory to Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry, who filed the lawsuit challenging the LGBT-rights order. Landry praised the ruling and said his challenge was aimed at “upholding the checks and balances on executive authority as established in our state constitution.”
Edwards said he plans to appeal. He said his order, which contains an exception for contractors that are religious organizations, is a statement that Louisiana doesn’t discriminate.
Landry is seen as a potential challenger to Edwards in the 2019 governor’s race, and the two men, both in their first terms, have repeatedly clashed over issues of authority and finances since they took office in January.
Since Edwards issued his order in April, Landry has blocked dozens of legal services contracts that contain the anti-discrimination language. According to court testimony, as many as 100 contracts for state agencies and boards to pay outside lawyers are stalled, and the Edwards administration refused to transfer $18 million to the attorney general’s office because Landry refuses to include the executive order language in the agreement.
— Associated Press