Two more suspects charged after Nevada City protest turned violent
Two men have been charged with misdemeanor battery for their roles during the Aug. 9 Black Lives Matter demonstration in Nevada City, and a prosecutor said they could be asked to perform “restorative justice” if convicted.
Randy Matheson, 48, of Grass Valley, is alleged to have sucker-punched or slapped a man on the side of the face, while Joseph Alves, also 48 and from Grass Valley, is alleged to have confronted a BLM protester and forcibly ripped their sign away, Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said.
After the Aug. 9 rally, multiple videos surfaced of apparent assaults, and numerous calls were made for action. Nevada City Police Chief Chad Ellis subsequently launched an investigation in partnership with the Grass Valley Police Department, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office.
“Part of the challenge in this investigation has been that there is a lot of information out there that is not always accurate,” Walsh said.
Matheson and Alves each were charged with misdemeanor battery, which is defined as “a harmful or offensive touching of another person.”
In this particular case the District Attorney’s Office felt that misdemeanor battery best fit the facts of what happened, Walsh said.
“Fortunately, there were no significant injuries,” he said. “There was offensive and harmful touching.”
In Matheson’s case, there was no significant injury, Walsh said. Alves ripped a sign away from a person, which although not direct still constituted battery as touching a person through an object, he said.
“We wanted to be very careful,” Walsh said. “We want to send a clear message on the one hand that violence is not OK. But we also don’t want to give the appearance of taking sides politically on an issue or going after people due to their political ideology.”
The charges against Matheson and Alves follow the Aug. 14 arrest of James Steven Smith, 40, who was described by Nevada City Police Chief Chad Ellis as “one of the primary aggressors.”
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Smith is alleged to have body slammed one victim and thrown him to the ground. He forcibly took a cell phone from another victim and dropped it down a sewer. He was taken into custody and booked into the Nevada County Jail on felony charges of robbery and assault likely to cause great bodily injury. He’s since been released on a $100,000 bond.
Matheson and Alves were not arrested, unlike Smith, who has been charged with a more serious felony. They were sent letters to appear in court, with a court date four to six weeks out. If they don’t appear, then a warrant would be issued for their arrest, Walsh said.
The maximum sentence possible if convicted would be six months.
“Our offers in this case would involve probation and some jail time in addition to fees and fines, and perhaps anger management classes,” Walsh said. “In this instance, because of the circumstances of this situation, one thing we would offer is an opportunity to do some sort of restorative justice. This could involve a letter of apology or working with the community to repair the damage done by their actions.”
Walsh said he is still reviewing some additional possible cases, including one situation where a suspect shoved a man carrying a child on his shoulders into a wall.
He added, however, that he would not be charging dozens of perpetrators for minor infractions.
“We’re trying to take a reasonable approach,” he said, adding that his office wants to respect people’s freedom of speech and right to protest.
“Certain people obviously crossed the line and tried to physically intimidate and bully people,” he said.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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