KKK leader who fired gun at Charlottesville rally facing up to 10 years in prison

Richard W. Preston Jr. was found guilty of illegally firing a weapon during last year's "Unite the Right" rally.

Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other alt-right factions scuffled with counter-demonstrators near Emancipation Park (Formerly "Lee Park") in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (CREDIT: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other alt-right factions scuffled with counter-demonstrators near Emancipation Park (Formerly "Lee Park") in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (CREDIT: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A white supremacist who said he was a Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard has been found guilty of illegally firing a weapon during last year’s violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Richard W. Preston, 53, pleaded no contest on Tuesday to the charge of firing a weapon within 1,000 feet of a school. He had initially planned to go to trial saying that he acted in self-defense, but decided to abandon that strategy. Preston is due to be sentenced tomorrow and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Advertisement

Footage obtained by the ACLU showed Preston leaving Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park with a large number of other white nationalists. Preston then abruptly turned around and drew a handgun, pointed it towards an African-American counter-protester, and appeared to say “Get back n*****.” He then fired a single shot before turning around and walking away past a line of police officers.

In an October court hearing Preston said he had felt threatened because one man looked as though he was going to throw a newspaper box at him and another who was carrying a nail laden stick.

Preston said he then fired his weapon when a friend of his was threatened by a counter-protester wielding a makeshift flamethrower, according the Charlottesville Daily Progress. The counter-protester who Preston said he felt “threatened by” was Corey A. Long, 23, who is facing trial in June for misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and assault. Activists have been campaigning for his release.

Advertisement

“For justice to actually happen, we need to be prosecuting the people who are actually on the side of white supremacy,” Grace Aheron of the anti-racism group Showing Up for Racial Justice, told NBC29. “Not the people who were defending their community.”

Preston is the second white supremacist this week who has been found guilty of violence at the Unite the Right rally. Last Wednesday, 23-year-old Jacob Scott Goodwin was found guilty of malicious wounding, with a jury recommending ten years in prison. Goodwin was filmed viciously beating 20-year-old DeAndre Harris in a Charlottesville parking lot, breaking his arm and leaving him with a spinal injury. Goodwin had claimed he acted in self-defense.

Meanwhile Chris Cantwell, the Nazi who shot to fame for his role in VICE’s Charlottesville documentary before posting a video of himself crying upon learning the police were after him in wake of the violence, has claimed that he is now working with the FBI as an informant. Naturally this has infuriated many on the far-right, labeling him “human garbage” and “a self-admitted police informant.”