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Second 2017 torch-bearing marcher pleads guilty

A second man has pleaded guilty for encircling counterprotesters with torches on the evening before the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Tyler Bradley Dykes of Bluffton, South Carolina, agreed Thursday to a six-month active sentence, and prosecutor Lawton Tufts pronounced his office satisfied with the term because the 25-year-old has no criminal record.

“Taking that into account, we thought this was an appropriate sentence,” Tufts said in court. “Also, the fact that he accepted responsibility.”

Under the plea agreement approved by Albemarle Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins, the full term of the sentence is five years, with five years of mandated good behavior and one year of supervised probation.

One month ago, another judge heard that Dykes was recently accused of pasting swastika stickers in his home state and denied him bail.

On Thursday, Dykes again appeared in the striped jumpsuit that is the uniform of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail and wearing waist chains and leg irons. The 6-foot-5 young man stood straight as he answered without hesitation the judge’s volley of questions about his signed plea deal: “Yes, your honor. I am, your honor. I have, your honor. I did, your honor.”

Tufts told the court that on the evening of Aug. 11, 2017, Dykes was among the group of white nationalist torch-bearing marchers who encircled a handful of counterprotesters gathered at a statue of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson in front of the University of Virginia Rotunda. They had just marched down the Lawn shouting neo-Nazi slogans including “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”

“The defendant was towards the front,” said Tufts. “The defendant was multiple times throwing the Nazi salute.”

Then, Tufts alleged, the defendant allegedly swung his extinguished torch in the direction of some counterprotesters.

“We don’t want him to be in this community because of the nature of the charges,” said Tufts, urging the judge to return Dykes to South Carolina after the conclusion of the jail term.

Neither Dykes nor his attorney, Bryan Jones, offered any statement on the allegations, but Dykes asked the judge to ensure that his parole officer permits him to travel for his work as a computer technician.

“I have clients in the Savannah, Georgia, area, which is a about a 35-minute drive from my home,” said Dykes. “I work in computers and basically do tech support.”

Higgins agreed to endorse that request in his file. She also agreed to another defense request to give Dykes credit for time served since his March 17 arrest in South Carolina. Despite it being read in open court Thursday, the plea agreement must be sealed for up to a year, Higgins ordered.

To prevent a repeat of Virginia’s notorious past as a haven for the racial terror group the Ku Klux Klan, Virginia criminalizes the use of fire for racial intimidation with penalties that can reach five years.

Another man charged under this law accepted a plea deal earlier this month, according to Albemarle County court records. Will Zachary Smith, of Nacona, Texas, was released after signing his sealed plea and ordered to return for sentencing on Aug. 7. Three other men have been indicted for the 2017 event and await adjudication.


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