HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Harry Rogers, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, was sentenced to five years in jail for driving his truck through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Henrico last summer.
About two years of that jail time was knocked off the sentence due to time already served and suspended sentences.
In court Tuesday, Rogers apologized for his actions and said he wished he acted differently.
Rogers, 37, pleaded guilty last week to three counts of assault, one count each of destruction of property, and one count of hit and run.
While no one sustained serious physical injuries when Rogers drove through the crowd on Lakeside Avenue, near Vale Street, he did drive over a man’s toe and hit one woman who stepped in front of the truck.
The court heard from several individuals who were either physically or emotionally impacted by the events of that day.
Rachel Kurtz read a handwritten note from her 12-year-old son who was at the BLM protest.
“I think he should learn to love,” Kurtz read.
George Townsend, Rogers’ defense attorney, argued that the only people who were struck were those who intentionally put themselves in his path.
Townsend had asked for an active sentence of five months in jail, while Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor argued for the maximum sentence of five years.
Taylor argued that this was all about the defendant’s actions during a “traumatic event.”
She said evidence showed that he had urged his followers on Facebook to join him to break up the protest.
Before he was arrested, Rogers boasted about the incident on social media.
“This Chevrolet 2500 went up on the curb and through the protest,” he said on a Facebook live video played in court. “They started scattering like (expletive) cockroaches. ... It’s kind of funny if you ask me.”
Rogers’ attorney, George Townsend, said Rogers is a member of the KKK.
“He was born into it,” Townsend told the judge. “That was never hidden.”
Townsend said Rogers was now willing to sit down and talk to the people involved in the incident that day.
“I’m sorry for my actions,” Rogers told Henrico Circuit Court Judge Lee Harris.
Rogers stated that he would like to go back in time and do things differently.
He asked Harris not to give him the maximum sentence saying, “I do have children who I miss dearly.”
Judge Harris told Rogers that he cannot take situations into his own hands.
Harris said he was not sentencing him based on Rogers’ beliefs but rather the conduct that resulted in injury on June 7.
Harris said that his sentencing was threefold:
- To punish for his conduct
- To prevent him from doing it again
- To send a message to others that “society won’t tolerate “ these actions
Harris also asked Rogers to consider what message his actions sent to his 14-year-old passenger that day.
He said Rogers had 10 misdemeanor convictions in the past which also played a role in the sentencing.
CBS 6 has reached out to Rogers’ attorney for a comment but we haven’t heard back.
Rogers originally faced malicious wounding and hate crime charges related to the events on June 7. However, a judge sided with the defense's argument that Virginia's laws related to hate crimes do not apply in this case because the victims were white.
“While I believe his hateful and bigoted motivations should have him behind bars even longer, the Virginia Code is not helpful. I want to thank Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield) for her efforts to strengthen the Law in this area. I attended the specific committee hearing to advocate for her hate crimes legislation to ensure that those motivated by bigotry are punished severely. Unfortunately, that legislation did not pass, but I will continue to advocate for a safer, and more just Virginia," Taylor wrote in a statement.
Several severe felony charges were dropped in a plea deal. The judge ordered Rogers not to contact the victims and to pay $229.54 in restitution for a damaged bicycle.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.