RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Harry Rogers, a Hanover man and self-proclaimed “highest-ranking member of the KKK” was sentenced to three years and eight months in jail on Tuesday for driving into a crowd of protestors last summer.
Rogers was arrested near the A.P. Hill statue in Richmond after witnesses said he drove into a group of protesters on Lakeside Avenue on June 7. One witness told 8News, Rogers’ truck had “Trump 2020”, “Guns Save Lives” and Confederate flag stickers on it at the time.
In August, Rogers, 37, was found guilty of four misdemeanor simple assault charges, one misdemeanor property damage charge and one misdemeanor hit and run, with each count carrying a 12-month sentence.
After he was convicted this summer, Rogers appealed the General District court’s convictions to Circuit Court, where he would have faced three additional felony charges of malicious wounding.
Instead of going to trial, Rogers plead guilty Thursday to three counts of assault, and one count each of destruction of property and hit and run. In exchange, the three felony charges and a fourth misdemeanor assault charge were dropped.
At the sentencing Tuesday, the Commonwealth of Virginia asked the Henrico judge for a five-year sentence, one for each of Rogers’ misdemeanors. George Townsend, Rogers’ lawyer, asked for his client to have 11 months on each charge suspended, or only a five month sentence.
The judge gave Rogers three years and eight months total behind bars for the five misdemeanors.
“We respect the first amendment of free speech, but when it gets to that point where those beliefs then become the foundation for violence and harming individuals, there just can’t be any tolerance for that,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said after the hearing. “We do not tolerate hate. We do not tolerate bigotry.”
The sentence came after three witnesses were called to testify presenting “new evidence” Tuesday. Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor called them to testify to the emotional impact that Rogers’ actions had on them last year.
In previous hearings, two of the three people hit my Rogers car also testified in court, along with others who were at the protest and saw what happened.
Rodgers made a statement to the court before he was sentenced.
“I’m sorry for my actions. Maybe I did not make the right choices on that day,” he said. Rogers then said he wishes he could go back and change what happened, but he can’t.
“I would ask the court to not give me the max time,” he said through tears. “I do have children that I miss dearly.”
His defense attorney’s main argument was that folks could have moved out of the way as Rogers was pushing through the protest. Witnesses often pushed back against that, stating that they were trying to stop him from inching forward into the crowd.
Townsend was not available for comment after the hearing today.
Taylor tried to pin hate crime convictions on Rogers, considering his admitted ties with the KKK. However, according to discussions in court hearings, she was not able to prove his “intent to injure.”
“The current laws that are on the books were and are insufficient to address this type of conduct properly,” Taylor said.
“While I believe his hateful and bigoted motivations should have him behind bars even longer, the Virginia Code is not helpful. I want to thank Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield) for her efforts to strengthen the Law in this area. I attended the specific committee hearing to advocate for her hate crimes legislation to ensure that those motivated by bigotry are punished severely. Unfortunately, that legislation did not pass, but I will continue to advocate for a safer, and more just Virginia,” she added.
“My commitment is to keep Henircoans safe and this bigoted heinous Klansman is off the streets.”