Misdemeanor Consequences for Trump in North Carolina? If so, Will Anyone Care?
On Wednesday, March 9, 2016, during a political rally hosted by the Trump campaign in Fayetteville, North Carolina, John MacGraw (78) struck Rakeem Jones in the face. Mr. Jones was being taken up the stairs of the venue in order to be removed from the rally when he was assaulted. Although this event was captured on video, MacGraw was not taken into custody and charged until the following day. As of March 14, 2016, news sources are reporting that the Cumberland County Sheriff’s office is now considering charging Donald Trump with inciting a riot.
This would involve charging Mr. Trump with a violation of the North Carolina Code, General Statutes, section 14-288, et seq. A determination will have to be made whether, in an assemblage of three or more persons (check), there was a public disturbance (check) which involved the following: a) disorderly and violent conduct; or b) imminent threat of disorderly and violent conduct which resulted in injury or damage to persons and property. Such conduct could also present a clear and present danger of damage to persons and property under the statute.
MacGraw infamously said, “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”
Was it Trump who willfully incited and/or urged MacGraw to this conduct? It would be nice and neat if MacGraw were to say so. Most of us can probably infer that without Trump’s rhetoric of the night, and we would have to look at the speech of that night up to the point of the punch. MacGraw would not have punched Jones.
On MacGraw’s conduct alone, (a) from above has been met. So, check!
On MacGraw’s conduct alone, there has been injury to a person. So, check!
Under subsection (d) of the statute, Donald Trump, as the person doing the inciting and urging, would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Serious bodily injury involves punishing the person doing the inciting/urging as a Class F felon.
So far, there are no indications that Rakeem Jones sustained serious bodily injury. So, this leaves us with a Class 1 misdemeanor. Under Section 15A-1340.23, the court has some latitude in determining punishment, but it could include “community punishment” for a specified period of days in the discretion of the court, together with a fine, also at the discretion of the court. Punishment also hinges on prior convictions.
Although the optics on this would not be particularly presidential, it is doubtful that this will matter a smidgeon to Trump supporters. It is also highly doubtful that this would impinge on any future conduct by Trump who thrives in this sort of adversarial milieu. It would, however, prove highly satisfying to many who believe that actions and words have consequences, as the statutes themselves direct.