In the annals of North Carolina history, public officials have charged individuals with "inciting a riot" after prison melees, attacks on civil rights protesters, Ku Klux Klan gatherings, a teen party gone wild and a social media posting trying to organize a riot at a mall.
So, when a North Carolina sheriff's department with jurisdiction in the area where a Trump supporter sucker punched a protester at a rally March 9 indicated Monday that it was looking into but was unlikely to bring charges of inciting a riot against Trump, this got some attention.
North Carolina's law on inciting a riot, much like in almost every state and in the federal code, are not intended to prohibit the exercise of free speech, no matter how objectionable that speech may or may not be, said Mary-Rose Papandrea of the University of North Carolina law school. However, if and when a prosecutor can prove that a person made certain comments with the intent of encouraging or sparking imminent violence or damage, prosecutors have generally been able to make charges stick.
Of course, proving intent -- what Trump or anyone else hoped or planned to happen -- is no easy task.
Still, in 2000, North Carolina managed to do just that when Mötley Crüe bass player Nikki Sixx pleaded no contest to the charge of inciting a riot during a 1997 concert in Greensboro, N.C. Sixx encouraged the audience to physically attack a black security guard and used curse words and racial slurs while doing so, kicked and spat on the security guard. Sixx's bandmate, Tommy Lee, reportedly poured beer on the same security guard's head. The security guard had to climb on stage to protect himself from the crowd, and other members of the concert's security team had to remove some fans from the coliseum where the concert was held. MTV broadcast some of the event on national television.
Sixx was arrested when he returned to North Carolin in 1999 for a subsequent concert. Lee turned himself in a few weeks later. And, in 2000, Sixx was convicted of inciting a riot and Lee of simple assault. Neither was required to serve jail time. The security guard also later settled a federal civil suit against the band for an undisclosed amount.
Mötley Crüe, similar to what Trump alleges of protesters today, said at the time that the incident was the security guard's fault because band members had spotted him roughing up a female concert-goer while patrolling a barricade between the stage and fans.
As of late Monday, public officials told The Washington Post that they were leaning against filing inciting-a-riot charges against Trump. Although Trump has made comments during rallies telling supporters to punch someone or indicating that he would like to, his comments at the North Carolina rally weren't quite so clearly connected to what happened.
A Trump supporter has been charged in connection with sucker-punching a protester. But because the fracas happened early on during the Trump event, it is not yet clear that Trump made any comments that demonstrate he was intending to inspire that punch. Trump and his campaign staff have said that the man charged with punching a protester was driven to his actions after the protester shot the man the finger. Trump has since said that he will consider paying the arrested man's legal fees.