Charges against UNC lecturer in Silent Sam protest assault case dismissed
An Orange County judge dismissed a misdemeanor assault charge brought against a UNC-Chapel Hill lecturer on Thursday, citing a flawed charging document.
Dwayne Dixon, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor and an organizer who is a regular participant in protests against white supremacy and against the Silent Sam Confederate statue, faced a simple assault charge. Dixon is also a member of the Redneck Revolt, a left-wing group that promotes armed community self-defense.
Patrick Howley, editor-in-chief for the website Big League Politics and a former reporter for the conservative Breitbart News Network, successfully sought a citizen-initiated criminal summons for simple assault, a misdemeanor, after taking his concerns about Dixon’s actions at an Aug. 20 Silent Sam protest to a magistrate.
The case was dismissed Thursday after about an hour of testimony from Howley and the showing of a video he took that he contends shows the assault.
After Assistant District Attorney Blake Courlang said he was done putting on evidence, Dixon’s attorney Scott Holmes asked for the case to be dismissed.
Holmes contended the video, which starts with Howley chasing Dixon and asking him questions, contradicts Howley’s allegation that Dixon grabbed Howley’s left hand and arm and struck him in the chest and face.
Holmes also argued that the charging document was defective because it named Dixon as the victim and not the perpetrator.
Orange County District Court Judge Samantha Cabe agreed with that last argument.
“I am going to dismiss this case,” Cabe said, due to “the fatal flaw in the charging document.”
Howley said in court that he asked Dixon at the Aug. 20 Silent Sam protest why he chased James Fields into the crowd at a Charlottesville, Virginia, rally and counterprotest. In response, Dixon approached him, grabbed his phone and repeatedly struck him, Howley testified.
Fields is charged in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer after he drove into a crowd on Aug. 12, 2017.
Howley is among a group of individuals posting video and content alleging Dixon chased Fields into the crowd just before Fields drove his car into the crowd killing Heyer during the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
Dixon, 46, was in Charlottesville that day along with fellow members of Redneck Revolt, who provided security for counterprotesters when white supremacists and nationalists marched against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in a local park.
After the Charlottesville rally, Dixon, a UNC teaching assistant professor in the Department of Asian Studies, made comments about holding a rifle and chasing off Fields.
Dixon has said Fields’ vehicle stopped in front of him and Dixon “made it clear he wasn’t to stay there,” but didn’t chase him off into the crowd.
Fields passed Dixon another time before Fields hit Heyer a block away, Dixon said.
Before the trial, Dixon said the charges were “patently false,” and brought by people who are targeting him “because they think somehow by undermining me they can undermine the movement,” he said.
After the case was dismissed, Howley pulled out his phone in the hallway at the courthouse and started again asking Dixon questions.
“Let’s have a conversation about what you are doing, Dwayne,” Howley said. “That is all we want.”
After Howley put his phone down, he told reporters that he feels like people in Chapel Hill were put in harm’s way by “the radical violent riots that [Dixon] and his friends caused on that campus and elsewhere in the country.
“Until the media starts reporting on this violence, we are not going to be able to come together and have rational conversations in this country because we are just going to descend into street fighting out there,” he said.