The Department of Justice on Saturday announced charges against four men for their alleged involvement in the vandalization of the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., during a demonstration earlier this week.
The news broke just hours after President Trump tweeted 15 individual press releases from the U.S. Park Police, with photographs of suspects who allegedly desecrated the monument, which lies on federally owned property.
Lee Michael Cantrell, 47, of Virginia; Connor Matthew Judd, 20, of Washington, D.C.; Ryan Lane, 37, of Maryland; and Graham Lloyd, 37, of Maine, were all charged in a criminal complaint Friday with “destruction of federal property,” according to the Justice Department (DOJ).
The charges were announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin; Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division, James A. Dawson, and Acting Chief of the Park Police Gregory T. Monahan.
The complaint, which was unsealed Saturday, states that on June 22, the four men participated in damaging the statue alongside other rioters, while also being captured on video “attempting to pry the statue off its base with a wooden board and trying to pull the statue down with the aid of a yellow strap,” the DOJ said.
It also claims there is video evidence showing “Lloyd as he breaks off and destroys the wheels of cannons located at the base of the statue. Lloyd is then captured on video pulling on ropes in an effort to topple the statue and handing a hammer to an unidentified individual involved in the incident,” according to the department.
Judd, who was arrested Friday, appeared in the Superior Court of D.C., but the issue will reportedly be handled by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday. The remaining defendants have yet to be apprehended by law enforcement, according to the DOJ.
The Justice Department stressed that the criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, but in no way represents evidence of guilt or culpability.
Sherwin said in a statement: “The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed. This Office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”
Dawson added: “The FBI respects the peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights, but we will not allow opportunists to hijack peaceful protests to incite violence and destruction of property. We will continue to work with our partners to enforce federal laws prohibiting damage to government facilities and property.”
The charges came just one day after President Trump signed an executive order to shield monuments and memorials from lawless rioters, promising prison time for those who tested the limits of his new mandate.
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence,” he tweeted Friday. “Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!
This joint investigation was carried out by the Park Police in coordination with the FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Violent Crime Task Force. Any person with information about the identity and location of the suspects, or the crime itself, can contact the FBI at 202-278-2000.
Author : Nick Givas