Posted on November 7, 2023

Judges in Charlottesville Trial Recused for Bias

Jason Kessler, Counter-Currents, November 6, 2023

A momentous, and rare, legal victory has been achieved in the cases of Augustus Invictus, Jacob Dix, and the other defendants recently charged under Virginia’s “burning an object” statute for non-violent participation in the Charlottesville torchlight demonstration, Unite the Right, that was held six years ago on August 11, 2017.

Various Unite the Right protesters have been rounded up and charged in a dragnet by Albemarle County’s Soros-funded prosecutor Jim Hingely. As revealed in an exclusive investigation on my website, Judge Claude Worrell, the circuit’s head judge, who had been brutally and decisively denying bond to men without criminal records for this non-violent offense, was himself a counter-protester on August 11. Additionally, Worrell, who is black, has a radical white wife Kathryn Laughon, who is an antifa activist, as well as a mixed daughter, both of whom were additional witnesses to the events of the case and had been calling for prosecutors to charge the defendants on social media.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of defense attorneys Peter Frazier for Jacob Dix and Terrell Roberts for Augustus Invictus, motions were successful in recusing not only Chief Justice Worrell for his unethical, undisclosed conflict of interest, but every judge in the 16th Circuit of Virginia on the basis that they report to Worrell and could therefore not be impartial. A new judge from outside the area will now be appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court.

The November 1 hearing was heard before Judge Cheryl Higgins, who presides in the Albemarle Circuit Court along with Worrell and who recently denied Invictus’ motion to dismiss the charges, which was a strong one pointing out the statutory defects of charging someone holding a lit candle with “burning an object with intent to intimidate.” You can read all about that in my recent article at VDARE.

Next on the chopping block could be Albemarle Assistant Prosecutor Lawton Tufts, who is spearheading the prosecutions and was exposed in the Charlottesville Independent Review (aka the Heaphy Report) as yet another Leftist counter-protester at Unite the Right who is now trying to pass himself off as an unbiased member of the court.

What follows is an exclusive play-by-play report of the drama inside the courtroom (with minor editing).

To make a long story short, Higgins recused herself yesterday and agreed to bring in a judge from outside our local judicial circuit. The defense got what they wanted. Unfortunately, though, they couldn’t go forward with the motion to disqualify the prosecutor, since they need to wait for the new judge. This judge should be appointed sometime next week, and then they will schedule a hearing on the motion to disqualify as soon as possible.

Yesterday the court was set to hear two motions: one to recuse the remaining judges of the 16th Judicial District, and another to disqualify the prosecutor. Antifa activists Kathryn Laughon, Anne Coughlin, Ben Doherty, and Jalane Schmidt were subpoenaed to testify against Tufts. They all appeared — except for Schmidt, as there may have been a problem getting the subpoena to her — and they were angry about being there.

Tufts filed a motion to quash the subpoena for Kathryn Laughon, saying that her testimony wouldn’t be relevant anymore because Worrell had already recused himself. Filing may have been improper, because the prosecutor has no standing to try to nullify a defense subpoena of a private citizen. They were basically acting on Laughon’s behalf as her private counsel. Frazier noted this in a written objection, and also noted that her testimony was needed for the motion to disqualify (Laughon can testify about who was at the counter-protester summit at St. Paul’s Church across from the torch march on 8/11, which included members of groups Lawton was working with that summer).

Higgins presided at the hearing. Frazier presented his case and noted an issue at the outset: He was about to call Laughon as a witness regarding the recusal motion. Frazier asserted that neither Higgins nor any judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit could be impartial when Laughon was on the stand. Her professional relationship with Worrell, and the fact that Worrell is the Chief Judge of the Circuit, gives the appearance that Higgins would be partial to Laughon and wouldn’t, say, declare her a hostile witness or hold her in contempt if necessary.

Tufts argued that her testimony was irrelevant and that she shouldn’t be required to testify. Frazier pointed out that the representatives of the Commonwealth, if they are truly impartial, shouldn’t care who testifies on behalf of the defense, and that Laughon’s testimony was relevant for the reasons mentioned above.

Higgins agreed with Frazier. She noted that Laughon’s testimony was indeed relevant. She said she had no actual bias in favor of Laughon — she indicated that she and Worrell are not friends outside of work at all — but the appearance of bias was strong enough that she would recuse. She granted a request that the Supreme Court appoint a substitute judge rather than having a recusal hearing for every other judge in the Circuit.

Given her recusal, though, she couldn’t go forward with the motion to disqualify Tufts, so the defense will schedule that hearing once they get an order of appointment for the new judge. That order will probably come down next week, and they’ll schedule a hearing as soon as possible.

Mr. Invictus joined Jacob Dix’s motion, so he and Mr. Roberts were there, also. Higgins’ order applies to his case as well. It’s unclear whether this will apply to other co-defendants.

Defense attorneys are looking forward to the motion regarding Tufts (PDF of the motion against Tufts here). He has not filed a response, though they suspect he will at some point. The facts in their motion can’t be denied, though he surely disagrees with some of the characterizations and conclusions. He’ll argue that yes, he was an activist organizer in 2017, but that it’s no big deal. That’s absurd, of course, but he has no other option.

Additionally, Invictus’ attorney Terrell Roberts intends to refile his motion to dismiss the charges for a new hearing once the replacement judge has been appointed.