Virginia KKK Leader Harry Rogers to Have Sentence Reduced on Appeal For Driving into Protest

A Ku Klux Klan leader who deliberately drove into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Virginia last summer will receive a reduced prison sentence after appealing his conviction.

Harry Rogers, 37, was found guilty of driving into the protesters with his truck in June 2020 and sentenced to six years in prison in August. He appealed his sentence and on Thursday pleaded guilty to charges that carry a maximum sentence of only five years in exchange for four other charges being dropped, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Rogers drove his blue Chevrolet truck into the crowd of protesters around 5:45 p.m. on June 7, hitting at least three people. Although a man's toe was run over and a woman was struck twice, the incident did not result in any severe injuries. He reportedly took to social media to brag about the vehicular assault shortly after it happened.

"This Chevrolet 2500 went up on the curb and through the protest," Rogers said in a Facebook live video that played during Thursday's hearing, according to the paper. "They started scattering like [expletive] cockroaches ... It's kind of funny if you ask me."

By pleading guilty to the five charges, Rogers avoided a trial that would have taken place next week. The charges that were dropped included felony charges that might have resulted in an extended sentence. Rogers did not strike a sentencing deal with prosecutors and he could potentially receive fewer than five years at a hearing set to take place on February 9.

"The only people that made contact with the truck were those who put themselves in front of the truck," Rogers' attorney George Townsend, who plans to argue for a reduced sentence based on mitigating circumstances, reportedly told the judge.

Ku Klux Kland Black Lives Matter Court
An unidentified Ku Klux Klan member poses during a pro-Confederacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8, 2017. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty

Townsend did not deny that Rogers is a member of the Ku Klux Klan, explaining that he was "born into it." When searching Rogers' truck, police found iconography related to both the notorious hate group and the Confederacy, along with a rifle and ammunition. One day after the incident took place, Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor issued a statement vowing to punish Rogers.

"The accused, by his own admission and by a cursory glance at social media, is an admitted leader of the Ku Klux Klan and a propagandist for Confederate ideology," Taylor said on June 8. "We lived through this in Virginia in Charlottesville in 2017. I promise Henricoans that this egregious criminal act will not go unpunished. Hate has no place here under my watch."

Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and racial injustice that erupted nationwide following the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd were accompanied by many incidents of vehicles driving into crowds of protesters, often intentionally. University of Chicago researcher Ari Weil found that there were at least 104 such incidents in the time between Floyd's death and September 5.

Although some of the incidents resulted in death or serious injuries, a number of GOP lawmakers in states like Missouri and Florida responded by pushing for legislation that would limit or eliminate criminal penalties for those who drove into crowds of protesters, while increasing possible punishments for those who participate in "unlawful" demonstrations.

Newsweek reached out to the Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney's Office for comment.