Charlottesville blogger Jason Kessler — who gained local attention by petitioning for the resignation of Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy from the Charlottesville City Council after uncovering a series of controversial tweets from Bellamy’s past — was charged with assault Sunday morning.
Charlottesville Police Lt. Steve Upman said the incident occurred around 10:50 a.m. in the 100 block of East Market Street. The victim, a 53-year-old white male, approached Kessler, who was gathering signatures on the Downtown Mall.
“The victim advised that he did not like [the petition], told Kessler that and called Kessler an ‘a—hole,’” Upman said. “The victim then advised that Kessler assaulted him by punching him in the face.”
Charlottesville Police say Kessler, however, claimed the victim approached him in an aggressive manner, grabbed his clipboard and called him an expletive.
“Kessler advised he was scared and punched the victim,” Upman said.
Kessler, who was petitioning for the removal of Bellamy from City Council, said he was acting peacefully when the victim approached him.
“I was peacefully collecting signatures for my petition when I was accosted by a guy pretending to be interested in looking at the petition,” Kessler said. “When you got in close he screamed, ‘you're a f—ing a—hole.’”
Kessler said he felt threatened and punched the man in self-defense. He later denied reports of being arrested.
“I categorically deny that I was arrested as other media outlets have erroneously reported,” Kessler said. “The officer asked me to pick up a summons at the station and I complied.”
Upman said the victim obtained a warrant and Kessler was summonsed to court. Kessler has been charged with assault and battery — a class one misdemeanor — and will appear in Charlottesville General District Court.
“Both Kessler and the victim had different versions of what transpired,” Upman said. “We responded, took a report and advised warrants which the victim obtained.”
If Kessler is found guilty, he could receive either a jail sentence of up to 12 months, a maximum fine of $2,500 or both.
In November, Kessler published tweets written by Bellamy that contained anti-white and sexist language. A subsequent investigation by The Cavalier Daily uncovered tweets using homophobic slurs.
Kessler is calling for Bellamy to step down from City Council and is working to gather signatures to present a petition to Charlottesville Circuit Court.