Posted on June 4, 2024

Trial Begins for Man Charged in 2017 Charlottesville Torch Rally at the University of Virginia

Denise Lavoie, Associated Press, June 4, 2024

Years after a white nationalist rally erupted in violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, a trial began Tuesday for one of about a dozen people charged with using flaming torches to intimidate counterprotesters.

The trial of Jacob Joseph Dix, 29, of Clarksville, Ohio, got underway with jury selection. The case will provide the first test of a 2002 Virginia law that makes it a felony to burn something to intimidate and cause fear of injury or death. Lawmakers passed the law after the state Supreme Court ruled that a cross-burning statute used to prosecute Ku Klux Klan members was unconstitutional.


Indictments unsealed last year showed 11 people had been charged with intimidation by fire {snip} So far, five people have pleaded guilty to the charge. Dix is the first to go on trial.


Many potential jurors in a pool of 33 brought in for Dix’s trial said they were disturbed or appalled by the violence of Aug. 11 and Aug. 12, 2017. {snip} When questioned by Dix’s defense lawyer and a prosecutor, the jurors said they could put aside any initial opinions they had formed and could decide the case based solely on the evidence presented in court.


Dix told The Daily Progress newspaper that he has changed during the last seven years.

“I’m kind of on trial for a past life,” he told the newspaper during a court hearing in January.

Dix’s attorney, Peter Frazier, has argued that the white nationalists were expressing free speech protected under the First Amendment.