Local News

2 found guilty in toppling of Silent Sam; charges dropped for 2 others

Posted April 25, 2019 8:04 a.m. EDT
Updated April 25, 2019 6:34 p.m. EDT

— Two people were found guilty Thursday of bringing down the Silent Sam monument at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last August while similar charges for two others were dropped.

Shawn Birchfield-Finn and Raul Jimenez were charged with misdemeanor injury to real property, injury to personal property, disorderly conduct and riot.

Judge Lunsford Long sentenced both men to 24 hours in jail, a $500 fine plus court costs and 18 months probation.

"There have to be consequences," Long said.

Earlier in the day, Birchfield-Finn picked up another charge on his way into the court room. Orange County deputies said he had a 3.4 inch pocket knife with him. He was arrested, and then went into the courtroom for his trial.

Charges against Lauren Aucoin and Jonathan Fuller were dropped. According to the judge, the state did not present evidence that the two were out there the day the statue was toppled.

Margarita Sitterson is also charged, but as of 6 p.m., there was no update on her case.

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All except Sitterson, a UNC freshman and the granddaughter of a former UNC Chancellor, have the same attorney -- Scott Holmes -- who argued that it was necessary to take the statue down because the statue itself posed a greater threat than the act of removing it.

Holmes has experience handling similar cases. In 2017, he represented those accused of toppling Durham's Confederate statue. He was successful, as none of the defendants were convicted.

Jimenez was charged in both topplings. In a news conference before the trials started, Jimenez said he wanted to free communities of racism, white supremacy and monuments to white supremacy.

The Silent Sam statue, which commemorated Confederate soldiers, was erected on the university’s campus in 1913. School leaders say the statue and its pedestal were placed in storage after the toppling.

While many are fighting for the permanent removal of Silent Sam, others continue to hold events stating why they believe it should be placed back on campus.

A committee made of members of the UNC Board of Governors and the UNC system Board of Trustees have until the middle of May to present a plan for the statue’s future.

The Board of Governors rejected an earlier idea to house the monument in a proposed multimillion-dollar history center on campus.

On Wednesday, hundreds of UNC students protested police actions on campus, accusing them of appearing militarized during anti-racism protests but relaxed during white supremacy protests.