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City employee at Capitol on Jan. 6 had previous arrest

A Charlottesville information technology employee who apologized to city officials for entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection had been charged in 2020 with brandishing a firearm and aggressive driving, according to Albemarle County General District Court documents.

Donald Allen Groat II, whose name has appeared on social media posts by former Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney as well as in major news organizations, was charged on July 24, 2020 with the misdemeanors in connection with a road rage-like incident.

On Oct. 13, 2020, Groat pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless driving, and the firearm charge was dropped. Court records show he was required to turn in his firearms to the Albemarle County Police Department and was prohibited from purchasing, carrying or transporting them.

Records do not show how long that ban was to last. He was ordered by the court to receive counseling with Offender Aid and Restoration while under probation.

Brackney and local activists have called for Groat’s dismissal based on his being at the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot. They point to the July 2020 incident as a sign of potential violent behavior.

Arrest records show Groat was accused by another motorist who said that he followed her vehicle, cut her off, got in front of her vehicle and slammed on his brakes so that she nearly rear-ended his truck.

Records show that she said he yelled at her and eventually pointed a handgun at her, all while driving southbound on U.S. 29.

Information on what repercussions, if any, the traffic conviction had on his employment was unavailable on Monday. His presence in the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, however, did not result in discipline.

On Aug. 1, Interim City Manager Michael Rogers told city councilors that Groat, whom he did not name at the time, had been interviewed by the FBI and that no charges had been filed against him.

“He’s been interviewed by the FBI three times over the past year and a half,” Rogers told the council. “The employee reports no further contact from the FBI. The employee has not been charged with any actions stemming from his presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.”

FBI officials said they neither confirm nor deny whom they interview or why they interview them.

Local activists have pushed for city officials to dismiss Groat based on internet caches of social media accounts that show photos of the employee at the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot. Protesters who believed the 2020 election had been “stolen” through widespread voter fraud, as claimed by then-President Donald Trump, stormed the Capitol under Trump’s encouragement.

Rioters attacked Capitol police, broke into Congressional chambers, vandalized officers and sent elected officials, including then-Vice President Mike Pence, running for safety.

The cache shows posts leading up to the event in which Groat supported Trump’s claims and criticized social justice groups and protests.

At the Aug. 1 meeting, Rogers told councilors that Groat indicated that he was walked into the Capitol as “an independent journalist,” along with reporters from some television networks; and that he and the others left the building once asked by Capitol police.

Rogers said the fact that the employee has not been arrested, did not commit vandalism or assault during the invasion and left the building when told to do so led to his decision to not discipline the employee.

Tanesha Hudson, a local race and equity activist, warned the council on Aug. 1 that having an employee in IT who attended the far-right rally and riot at the Capitol with access to city records is not a good idea.

“This is a major security risk for this city. [The employee] has access to Virginia State Police records, local Charlottesville Police Department records and many other things while working in IT,” she said. “He has access to numerous city data. He has access to compromise your data and anything else.”

Attempts to reach Groat on Monday were unsuccessful.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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