Understandably, with these Charlottesville indictments coming down, several people have asked me about legal representation, and specifically about Elmer Woodard, who represented me in my case in Albemarle County.
This is not a simple yes or no question.
To begin, Elmer Woodard is a man of exceptionally good character. He cares about justice, and about doing right by his clients. Though media has attempted to caricature him as some kind of fool, this he is not. Elmer is an unusually intelligent man whose accomplishments in and out of court are impressive. Not only has he successfully defended clients in difficult trials, he has also become a published author, and earned a reputation as a historian.
People who don’t have our interests at heart often overlook the fact that Elmer Woodard did obtain the only Not Guilty verdict any of our guys got in a Unite the Right trial. There was a guy charged with a misdemeanor assault for the August 11th UVA brawl, and Elmer won that case.
Though I ultimately ended up taking a negotiated plea agreement in my Albemarle County case, the reason the terms were so favorable was because Elmer did such an excellent job of diminishing the case against me. Elmer got two of my original three charges dropped at a preliminary hearing (Transcript available here). He did this through a remarkably effective cross examination of witnesses who had lied under oath and contradicted their own sworn testimony. He was able to do this because, in addition to his raw talent and experience, he had put a lot of work into watching all of the videos, and knowing every every punch thrown, and every squirt of pepper spray deployed. His performance was impressive.
Though I pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor assault against Emily Gorcenski, and one against Kristopher Goad, it’s obvious that I did nothing of the sort. I pleaded guilty because I rightly distrusted the system. Here is a snippet of the Judge’s decision in my preliminary hearing.
In regard to these three charges, the first one where Mr. Goad is the complainant who went and obtained a criminal warrant, this gets to the issue of this hearing. In the hearing Mr. Woodard provided the Court with an email from Mr. Tracci and my comments here are not to be construed by anybody as any condemnation of Mr. Tracci. What Mr. Tracci told Mr. Woodard yesterday in this email which is part of our record, is that Mr. Goad is no longer certain that the direct deployment of gel pepper spray as he describes in his complaint resulted from action by Mr. Cantwell. In fact, it was indicated it was the result of action by another individual.
This warrant that, one of the three that I’m trying, a violation of 18.2-312 is based on a statement signed by Mr. Goad where he told the magistrate, Cantwell used a gel mace pepper spray at my face and caused me to lose my vision temporarily. In his testimony this morning he talked about four deployments. He said the last two didn’t affect him. The first two did and he identified Mr. Cantwell. The Court has concern that there’s been a case pending here for two and a half months based on the testimony of Mr. Goad that Cantwell sprayed him at his face and there is nothing about overspray and the Commonwealth relies on overspray in this case.
In the Court’s opinion it does two things. It raises into question what Mr. Goad’s recollections are. And the other one is a concern that Mr. Cantwell should be forced to stand trial on a warrant where the complainant says he did it, he did it at my face where he could identify somebody and then there is a representation a day before the preliminary hearing that he’s not certain about it. I don’t think Mr. Cantwell should stand trial on that. The Court is going to dismiss that charge.
In regard to the other two charges, the case of violation of 18.2-52 which is a charge of maliciously injuring Emily Gorcenski by release of a caustic substance. In the Court’s view of, the Court found significant and, in fact, the Court asked Ms. Gorcenski the question itself. The only verbal communication between Mr. Cantwell and Ms. Gorcenski for the entire day was when she approached him at No Name Field and asked him about an incident at Walmart. Other than that there is no evidence that Mr. Cantwell did or said anything to Ms. Gorcenski. The incident that she describes, she said it was most—she was sprayed most likely by Mr. Cantwell based upon their vicinity. The testimony that’s unchallenged, that there was someone else there who was described as dragon man that was releasing a spray. She says that she was affected by the overspray. There is no way for the Court to determine that Mr. Cantwell maliciously caused bodily injury to Ms. Gorcenski.
When the Court hears a malicious bodily injury case, the testimony generally isn’t, was well I was affected by what the defendant did. And here in close proximity, again the unquestioned evidence is that there was another person who was releasing a spray. The Court can’t find from that evidence that there’s probable cause for Mr. Cantwell to stand trial on that charge.
So, anyone who hires Elmer Woodard will have a very competent attorney doing everything he can to help his client.
That said, I have my doubts Elmer will even take these cases. Since Elmer is intelligent, I have a reasonable expectation he understands what is happening here, and it would make sense to me if he decided he had better things to do with his time than to get involved. I know I still owe him money, and I don’t imagine I’m the only one. Since lawyers incur obligations by taking on clients, he runs the risk of getting stiffed if the client can’t pay for the entire ordeal up front, and I didn’t spot a lot of rich guys at the torch march.
I haven’t asked him, but I’ll fire off an email after this post to see what he says.
Here’s my thinking on the matter.
All of these cases are going to be more or less identical. It’s the precise same argument. The prosecution cannot prove the required element of intent. There is a staggering lack of evidence that the intent was there, and substantial evidence to contradict the narrative of intent, such as my body camera video.
There is a reasonable possibility that this argument will be heeded in a motion to dismiss, and the Court will throw all of the cases out before jurors are even surveyed. However, I consider it unlikely that this prosecutor would have gone through all this trouble without thinking of this in advance. He must have reason to expect that the Court will let the trials go through.
Since it is the exact same defense in every case, if one guy gets off, the whole charade goes down in smoke. If one guy’s motion to dismiss is successful, then you could send yours in, pro se, written in crayon, and laced with profanity and racial epithets, and yours would also get dismissed. The Court would be deciding “as a matter of law” that the indictments were facially insufficient to warrant a trial, and it won’t matter who your attorney is, as long as one defendant submitted a competently written motion to dismiss.
That is exactly what would happen if we had an actual legal system, but if that was the case, we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place. We have a bunch of Democrats abusing their political power to harm powerless people who do the right thing. It’s really fairly straightforward criminality.
It would be nice if we were actually like a cohesive group, and could coordinate counsel and collectively fundraise, but I don’t foresee this, based on experience.
Ultimately, since these cases have nothing to do with the law, I am not under the impression it is going to make a great deal of difference who your attorney is.
Guys who qualify for public defenders should save their money (and Elmer’s time). Albemarle doesn’t have a public defender’s office. They’ll be assigned private counsel at taxpayer expense. Since Elmer Woodard doesn’t live near Charlottesville, he won’t be among the pool of attorneys drafted into service. I’m sure the incentive structure of that assignment will cause the lawyer to spend less time on the case than if they were billing by the hour to a well to do client, but I don’t believe it’s going to make any difference.
I certainly don’t think anybody is going to have a worse time than that by hiring Elmer Woodard, aside from the fact that they’ll have to pay for it. If nothing else, he’ll give them the comfort of knowing the lawyer in their corner is not some hostile, and on top of being capable in his profession, Elmer is a pleasure to speak with. He will put the client at ease to the extent such a thing is possible in this environment, and that is worth a great deal to some people.
The downsides I can think of in hiring Woodard are:
It will draw more attention to that client. If they are represented by Woodard, media will find that interesting. If they want to fly under the radar, this would not be a prudent step.
It is also more likely that jurors will recognize your attorney from media coverage, and this would not be without its downsides. On the other side of that coin, any juror who was going to be hostile toward Elmer Woodard, is not going to smile upon you either, no matter who your lawyer is.
I also highly doubt that you are going to find a jury pool without at least one person who is openly hostile toward you. We couldn’t put together such a jury in the federal civil trial, and we had a much wider jury pool than Albemarle County does.
If there are trials, Elmer Woodard is competent in a courtroom. He’ll fight for his clients, and he will earn his money.
Then his clients will be convicted anyway.
The same will be true for people who have public defenders, and people who hire armies of unscrupulous New York Jews with expert witnesses and Ouija boards to consult with the ghost of Johnny Cochrane.
This is not a legal case, it’s an exercise of political power. If you find it distasteful, then you should exert the maximum possible effort toward shifting the balance of political power Rightward. That will involve embracing Realpolitik, and moderating your words and actions to make your interests come into alignment with people more powerful than you.
If you do that, then you’ll be picking prosecutors, instead of defense attorneys.
Failing this, just do your time.
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