RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia state senator charged with damaging a Confederate monument said Tuesday that she will beat the case against her.
“It’s just an unnecessary nuisance, but you know what? I will be vindicated,” Sen. Louise Lucas, a Democrat, said in Richmond.
Police in the city of Portsmouth said Monday that they charged Lucas and several others with conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000. Other people who were charged included a school board member as well as members of the local NAACP chapter and public defender’s office.
The charges stem from a June 10 protest that drew hundreds of people to a Confederate monument in Portsmouth. The heads of Confederate statues were ripped off. And one statue was pulled down, critically injuring a demonstrator.
Police in Portsmouth said they took it upon themselves to file charges without the approval of the local prosecutor’s office.
Lucas is a longtime power broker who has served in the state Senate since 1992. She briefly spoke to reporters Tuesday outside the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, where lawmakers gathered for a special legislative session on criminal justice reform.
She declined to comment on whether the charges are political payback, as some have suggested, for her proposed reforms.
Some of her fellow lawmakers have raised concerns that the case against her is political.
“This timely, suspiciously retaliatory attack on the first Black person and woman to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Virginia State Senate is unacceptable,” the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said in a statement.
The caucus’s chairman, Democratic Del. Lamont Bagby, said Lucas had “stood up for protesters” and was “there fighting for justice.”
“These charges against her are simply outrageous,” Bagby said.
Don Scott, Lucas’s attorney, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the senator was only at the protest from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Scott said Lucas had talked to some of the police officers and demonstrators about how no one can be arrested for peacefully protesting.
Scott said Lucas then left the protest —- several hours before heads of statues were ripped off and before a statue was torn down, injuring a protester.
Police in Portsmouth have not described exactly what Lucas or the others allegedly did to merit the charges. Angela Greene, the police chief, said that several people had conspired “to destroy the monument as well as summon hundreds of people to join in felonious acts.”
The department has not released charging documents against Lucas or the others in the case. The local courthouse, where charging documents would be on file, has been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stephanie Morales, Portsmouth’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, did not sign off on the charges that police filed.
Morales said Tuesday that police had listed her as a witness in their case, something that she said “could effectively create a conflict of interest” and possibly prevent her from being involved in the case.
Morales said in a press release that she “was not on scene to be an eyewitness to any of the matters listed.”
Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia.