Prosecutors on Monday dropped a breach of peace charge against conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich, who was arrested last month when a scuffle broke out during his speech at the University of Connecticut titled “It’s OK to be White.”
Wintrich, a White House correspondent for the right-wing website Gateway Pundit, was charged with the misdemeanor count after he grabbed a woman who took a copy of his speech from the lectern and tried to walk away. People crowded around, attempting to pull them apart, and Wintrich was taken away by police.
After a court appearance Monday, an attorney for Wintrich told the Hartford Courant that prosecutors recognized Wintrich was trying to retrieve his papers. The woman, Catherine Gregory, was charged over the weekend with attempted larceny and disorderly conduct, as the Courant reported.
“I obviously think it’s wonderful that finally the system corrected itself,” Wintrich told local media outside the Superior Court in Rockville, Conn. “We don’t want to create a precedent that people can walk up to speeches they find disagreeable and steal them. I mean that’s really not what America is about.”
Gregory, an adviser at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson, Conn., turned herself in to police on Sunday. She is free on a $1,000 bond and is due in court Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Her attorney, Jon Schoenhorn, told the Courant that she took Wintrich’s speech as a form of protest. Her reaction was “measured and understandable compared [to] other people’s reaction in light of Wintrich’s apparent goal of inciting a violent response,” Schoenhorn said. “That, of course, would not be covered by the First Amendment.”
Wintrich’s Nov. 28 speech, sponsored by UConn’s College Republicans, was attended by about 350 people, many of them protesters who tried to drown him out by shouting obscenities and chanting “Go home, Nazis” and “black lives matter,” according to the Daily Campus, the student newspaper.
Over multiple interruptions, Wintrich accused liberals of “wanting black people to dress like they did in Africa 300 years ago.” He also presented a photo of women in burqas, saying the left “wants them to seem like visual advertisers for their multicultural utopia they’re claiming to promote.”
Video of the speech showed audience members approaching the lectern where Wintrich was standing, appearing to argue with him. Gregory could be seen snatching a sheaf of papers from in front of him and walking up the stairs in the auditorium. Wintrich yanked her backward and tried to wrest the papers from her hand. A scuffle ensued and Wintrich was arrested.
Later that night, a UConn student was charged with breach of peach of peace and criminal mischief after a window in the building was broken. Wintrich posted $1,000 bail and tweeted out his mug shot, saying, “maybe this made it all worth it.”
UConn officials responded to the incident by announcing that they would now review speakers’ backgrounds and do more to prepare for disruptions at student events.
Wintrich’s attorney, Norm Pattis, said he wants the court to impose “some brief period of incarceration” on Gregory.
“Free speech matters,” Pattis told local media. “It’s okay to be white, black, brown or anything in between. My client came to Connecticut and was treated like a criminal for no reason.”
State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky, who handled the case against Wintrich, said police “acted entirely reasonably, according to the Courant. “Mr. Wintrich through counsel has acknowledged that,” he said.
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