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Ohio Man Sentenced to Life in Prison For Charlottesville Car Attack

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  • The man who rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 has now been handed 29 life sentences by a federal judge.
  • His attack killed a 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer and injured more than two dozen others. 
  • He was also convicted at the state level for the attack last year and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 15, with a jury already recommending life in prison plus an additional 419 years.  

The Attack 

The man who deliberately drove a car into a group of counterprotesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia nearly two years ago was sentenced to life in prison by a federal court on Friday. 

The Ohio resident traveled to Virginia for the rally that took place on August 12, 2017. The event was organized by far-right white nationalist groups who were protesting the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. However, the gathering quickly turned violent as the groups clashed with counter-protestors. 

The now 22-year-old carried out his attack by driving his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counterprotesters. The attack killed 32- year-old Heather Heyer, a local law firm employee, and injured more than two dozen others. 

Sentencing 

He was indicted on several charges stemming from the attack in 2018 and agreed to plead guilty to 29 hate-crime charges earlier this year. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped a charge against him that carried a possible death sentence. 

His lawyers still asked for leniency during sentencing, arguing that their client should not have to serve a life sentence because of his young age, history of mental illness, and troubling upbringing. The attorneys noted that he was raised by a paraplegic single mother and suffered trauma while living with the knowledge that his grandfather had murdered his grandmother before taking his own life.

However, the prosecution argued that a life sentence was warranted considering the severity of his crimes. In a sentencing memo, prosecutor Christopher R. Kavanaugh said: “This is particularly true in light of the fact that he has demonstrated that he feels no remorse for his actions and continues to espouse his hateful ideology.”

More than a dozen survivors and witnesses of the attack gave statements during the sentencing hearing. Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, also spoke and said she was hoping for a life sentence. She also added that she hopes her daughter’s killer “can heal someday and help others heal.”

Rosia Parker, who said she was standing just a few feet away from where Heyer was struck, said she was looking directly at the driver when it happened. Parker said in court, “You could have done anything else but what you did.”

“So, yeah, you deserve everything that you get.”

Ultimately Judge Michael Urbanski agreed with prosecutors and handed down 29 life sentences, one for each hate crime count. The judge made 27 of the sentences concurrent with one another while the remaining two terms were made consecutive to the others.

“Every day I think about how things could have gone differently, and how I regret my actions,” the man said in court. “I am sorry.”

More to Come 

This won’t be the last sentencing hearing for the man. In 2018, he was convicted at the state level on counts of first-degree murder, aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, and leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

In December, a Virginia jury recommended that he serve a life sentence plus an additional 419 years for his crimes. He is scheduled for sentencing in that case on July 15.

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders or suspected and attempted mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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Pittsburgh Church Runs Out of Money During Gun Buyback

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  • Within the first hour of their gun buyback program on Monday, a church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ran out of money.
  • The church raised $5,100 to pay individuals up to $100 per firearm. An estimated 146 guns were handed in.  
  • The buyback took place two months after the community was rocked by a fatal double shooting that occurred right outside the church’s doors.
  • The event was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in honor of Dr. King’s legacy of non-violence.

Successful Buyback

A gun buyback hosted by a church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Monday received such a large response from the community that they ran out of money within the first hour.

The Church of the Holy Cross ran the program in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., whose life and accomplishments were recognized in the form of a national holiday on Monday. 

“In the first 45 minutes, we actually ran out of money,” Sylvia Wilson, the church’s senior warden, told CNN. “Some people were just bringing the guns in and they didn’t want the money. They just wanted to get the guns out of their homes.”

The church told CNN that $5,100 was raised by parishioners and other affiliate churches to buy back any firearms that people brought in. Individuals who participated received $50 or $100, depending on the type of gun. When the money ran out, the church posted a sign on their door.

“The Gun Buyback response has been overwhelming,” the sign read. “Thank you. We have run out of cash for this buyback. Sorry to turn so many away.”

“You can still turn in guns though,” the sign said at the bottom.

Wilson told CNN that even after the money had run out, people were coming to the church to turn in their guns. Other community members donated an additional $1,000 toward the buyback.

At least 146 guns were handed in overall, according to Rich Creehan, director of external relations for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh who spoke to CNN. Wilson said that the church was only expecting about 100. 

Striving for Non-Violence

The buyback program came just a few months after a double fatal shooting occurred right outside the Church of the Holy Cross. 

“In early November, on this very corner where this church sits, there was a double homicide involving relatives who attended this church and participated in our summer program,” Dr. Leon Haley with the Church of the Holy Cross said at a press conference last week.

“And so having this gun buyback at this church, which sits in a community disproportionately affected by gun violence, is a statement of the moral and humanitarian values we espouse,” he added.

This incident, tied with the desire to honor Dr. King’s legacy of non-violence, is what prompted the church to hold the gun buyback. 

On the same day, a very different event took place several hundred miles away. In Richmond, Virginia, thousands congregated for a rally and Lobby Day to fight for their gun rights. 

“We didn’t realize that in Virginia they would be marching today,” Wilson told CNN, referencing the Richmond demonstration. “We see that as dishonoring his legacy because they’re marching on this holiday representing him. It’s the total opposite of what we’re trying to do today.”

The organizers of the Richmond gun rights demonstration emphasized that their assembly was intended to be peaceful. Although Gov. Ralph Northam preemptively declared a state of emergency in the Capitol grounds of Richmond in fear of violence, the rally took place without a hitch.   

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC) (CBS)

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Evelyn Yang, Andrew Yang’s Wife, Says Gynecologist Sexually Assaulted Her

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  • Evelyn Yang, the wife of presidential candidate Andrew Yang, went public with her sexual assault allegations against a New York gynecologist. 
  • Yang said Robert Hadden, who practiced through Columbia University, sexually abused her during a medical appointment when she was pregnant in 2012.
  • After Yang and several other women’s allegations brought charges against Hadden, he pleaded guilty to two counts in 2016 and lost his medical license, but did not go to prison. 
  • Hadden and Columbia University are facing a lawsuit for abuse allegations and coverups, respectively, filed by at least two dozen women. 
  • Hadden has denied all allegations except the two counts he pleaded guilty to several years ago.

Evelyn Yang’s Story

Evelyn Yang, the spouse of 2020 presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, said she was sexually assaulted by a gynecologist who is also facing abuse allegations from more than two dozen other former patients. 

In a CNN interview released Thursday, Yang publicly spoke for the first time about her alleged assault by Robert Hadden, a former medical professional with Columbia University.

Yang said she started seeing Hadden in 2012, when she was pregnant with her first child, and described the visits as routine at first. But she said eventually the gynecologist’s behavior grew more and more inappropriate.

The mother claimed the worst case of assault was when she was seven months pregnant. 

“I was in the exam room and I was dressed and ready to go,” she told CNN. “And then, at the last minute, he kind of made up an excuse. He said something about ‘I think you might need a C-section’ and he proceeded to grab me over to him and undress me and examine me internally, ungloved.”

Yang revealed that she didn’t tell anyone about what happened for awhile — not even her husband — even though she knew what the doctor did was wrong. It wasn’t until months later, after she found out that another woman had reported a sexual assault by Hadden, that she told her spouse.

Legal Battles Against Robert Hadden

After telling her husband about what happened to her in the gynecologist’s office, Yang hired a lawyer and discovered that the Manhattan District Attorney had an open case against the doctor as several other women came forward with similar stories. 

In early 2016, after agreeing to a plea deal that saw him admitting to two out of nine charges against him, Hadden was convicted of sex crimes. However, the charges Yang accused him of weren’t among them. In that deal, Hadden had to surrender his medical license and register as the lowest level sex offender, but he did not have to spend any time behind bars. 

Yang was disappointed by the verdict and thought the punishment was not large enough for the crime. 

“They said that the punishment was the same, regardless of how many counts he plead guilty to, that the punishment would’ve been the same, so it didn’t matter,” Yang said. “And I thought, well, it matters to me.”

“The DA’s office is meant to protect us, is meant to serve justice,” she added. “And there was no justice here.”

Now, there are at least 30 women that now accuse Hadden of sexual assault. The majority of them, Yang included, are part of a civil suit against Columbia University, its affiliates, and Hadden. 

The lawsuit claims that the university “concealed Robert Hadden’s abuse for decades” and continued to allow his access to patients.  

Hadden has denied all allegations against him, save for the two counts he pleaded guilty to prior to his 2016 conviction. 

Justification for Going Public Now

Yang chose to bring her story into the public eye now because she felt empowered by the people she met as she accompanied her husband along his campaign trail. 

“Meeting people and seeing the difference that we’ve been making already has moved me to share my own story about it, about sexual assault,” Yang said.

After the CNN interview came out, Andrew Yang posted support for his wife on his Twitter page.

“I’m so proud of Evelyn for sharing her story on behalf of so many women who have had similar experiences, most of whom will never have the same opportunity,” he wrote. “She is the source of strength for our family and she demonstrates it every day.”

In her interview, Evelyn also expressed wanting to use her unique position to speak up about these issues. 

“My experience with the sexual assault… is such a powerful and upsetting example of the truth that women are living with every day,” she said. “And I just happen to be able to have a platform to talk about it. I need to use that voice.”

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (CNN) (BBC)

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Virginia Governor Declares State of Emergency Prior to Pro-Gun Rally

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  • The governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency on Wednesday ahead of a pro-gun rights demonstration next week, banning firearms from the Capitol grounds of Richmond for several days.
  • Gov. Ralph Northam warned of “credible threats” from outside groups that are planning to disrupt the assembly with violence.  
  • The demonstration, organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, is scheduled to take place Monday, Jan. 20 on the state’s Capitol grounds. 
  • Lobbyists plan to protest gun control bills that are being pushed by the state’s government, which Democrats have recently taken control of for the first time in a generation.

State of Emergency Declared

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced a temporary state of emergency on Wednesday in preparation for the pro-gun rights rally set to take place in the capital early next week. 

“We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies that there are groups with malicious plans for the rally that is planned for Monday,” Northam said at a press conference. “This includes out-of-state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence.”

“They are not coming to peacefully protest,” he added. “They are coming to intimidate and to cause harm.” 

In preparation for this possibility, Northam released an executive order detailing the state of emergency that will be set in place from Friday evening until Tuesday evening. Throughout this stretch of time, firearms and other weapons will be prohibited from the Capitol grounds in Richmond.  

Northam said that state intelligence analysts have identified rhetoric and threats similar to what was seen prior to the 2017 deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one person dead directly from the violence and dozens more injured. 

“No one wants another incident like the one we saw in Charlottesville in 2017,” Northam said. “We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here.”

Monday’s Plans

The rally that Northam is preparing for is being organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) and will take place on Monday, Jan. 20 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Northam asked the organizers of Monday’s event to “disavow” any groups who threaten violence, according to NPR.

On their frequently-asked-questions page, the VCDL writes that their annual Lobby Day is intended to be a “peaceful event” and encourages attendees to disengage if faced with any kind of harassment.

The VCDL emphasizes the sole purpose of the demonstration is for gun rights supporters to protest gun control bills that are moving forward under a new slate of lawmakers.

Earlier this month, Democrats took over as the majority group in both houses of Virginia legislature, a dynamic that hasn’t been seen in over 25 years. Many of these lawmakers have pledged to support Gov. Northam’s proposed measures to regulate and restrict firearms. 

Philip Van Cleave, the president of the pro-gun group, told CNN on Wednesday that he “doesn’t believe the governor has the right to ban weapons.”

Later on Monday, the Charlottesville Coalition for Gun Violence Prevention will also be assembling at the capital for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day vigil to honor victims of gun violence. A coordinator for the vigil was advised to push back the start time to avoid the big crowds from the pro-gun rally, according to a local news outlet

See what others are saying: (NPR) (CNN) (ABC)

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