Tyler Davis, the last defendant charged in the brutal Aug. 12, 2017, assault of DeAndre Harris, was sentenced to more than two years in prison Tuesday in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
More than two years after the deadly rally, Davis’ sentence marks the end of criminal proceedings in Charlottesville arising from the event.
Davis, 51, was part of a group of people who chased Harris into the Market Street Parking Garage as the Unite the Right rally devolved into chaos. Harris was hit with sticks, shields and fists and was left with a laceration on his head, a broken wrist and multiple cuts and bruises.
The laceration on Harris’ head is believed to have been caused by Davis, who only struck the victim once.
Davis, who is from Florida, was the fourth man to be arrested for the attack, and his arrest came several months after the others. He spent three months in prison before spending a year prior to his sentencing hearing under house arrest.
The other three co-defendants — Jacob Goodwin, Alex Ramos and Daniel Borden — already have all been sentenced and are serving prison sentences of eight years, six years and three years and 10 months, respectively. Goodwin and Ramos, who were convicted by juries in 2018, have since appealed their cases to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, where they have separate hearings scheduled for next month.
Though all four defendants — as well as two as-yet unidentified men — were responsible for the attack on Harris, Judge Richard E. Moore said he grappled with Davis’ sentence Tuesday, ultimately basing his decision more on finding justice for Harris than on the defendant’s culpability.
“Just punishment is not what is best for Mr. Davis, or his family, it is about what is fair,” he said. “Mr. Davis, you helped rip the fabric of this community, and you ripped it badly.”
Deviating from the other defendants, Davis’ family members testified that since his arrest, Davis had changed as a person, leaving the white supremacist League of the South group and working on building an understanding with people of other races.
Just before sentencing, Davis spoke on his own behalf, apologizing for his actions and asking for forgiveness from Harris, who has not been present for any of the sentencing hearings. Since his arrest and brief incarceration, Davis said he has become a new person.
“By lashing out at my perceived enemies, I was really lashing out at myself; I hated myself,” he said. “It was much easier to scapegoat others than to take responsibility for my own sorry self.”
Because earlier this year Davis entered an Alford plea — admitting there was enough evidence to convict him without admitting guilt — his attorney, Matthew Engle, was unable to argue whether his client’s actions were tinged with malice.
Instead, Engle attempted to explain the atmosphere of the day, which he described as being “rife with chaos.” Of the defendants, Davis was the least culpable, Engle said, and accordingly deserved a lesser sentence.
Engle, along with counsel for the Commonwealth, requested that the court allow the year Davis had spent on house arrest to count toward his sentence.
Nina-Alice Antony, assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Charlottesville, acknowledged the difficult position the court was in. On one hand, the defendant had been working to better himself and continue to support his family, she said, but on the other, he was responsible for a “brutal attack” on a defenseless man, dealing the most damaging blow.
“This is probably one of the worst group beatings we’ve seen in Charlottesville, and I don’t think there’s anything either side can present that changes that,” she said.
The Commonwealth declined to recommend a sentence but acknowledged that Davis was the least culpable of the defendants.
Ultimately, Moore said he had to do what was most just and gave Davis a 10-year prison sentence, dismissing seven years and two months. Though Moore declined to allow all of Davis’ time on house arrest to count toward his active sentence, he did allow six months, which, when paired with the three months already served, left an active sentence of two years and one month.
Following the hearing, Davis was allowed to say goodbye to his family before being taken to jail.
Outside the courthouse, Antony and Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania said they hoped this last criminal case would help bring closure to the community.
Though he has hesitated in the past to ascribe a message to his office’s prosecution, Platania said he hopes the six convictions relating to the Aug. 12, 2017, violence have spoken loud and clear about how Charlottesville views hatred.
While all open criminal cases related the Unite the Right rally have now closed in Charlottesville, more felony charges could be brought under Virginia’s statute of limitations. The two unidentified men from Harris’ assault are still being investigated by the Charlottesville Police Department.
Additionally, civil filings related to the event continue to swell in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Among the near-half dozen lawsuits filed on the two-year anniversary of the rally was one from Harris himself.
In addition to his six attackers, Harris’ suit names three dozen defendants, including lead-UTR organizers Jason Kessler, Richard Spencer and various other white supremacist individuals and organizations.