In an exclusive interview with the two men arrested and charged with assault in connection with a December 20 altercation on the Downtown Mall, which was initially portrayed as a “knock out” style attack for mere sport and entertainment by the alleged victims in the press and on Facebook, Malcolm Stevenson and Richard Spears offered their account of what happened that night. The interview was facilitated by Kiara Redd-Martin and Kishara Joy Griffin, two young African-American activists (and friends of the men) who say they feel “disappointed and angry” about the way the story was initially portrayed in the press, and encouraged their friends to come forward.
“We believe it was negligent journalism,” says Redd-Martin, a 24-year old graduate of Old Dominion University who is now pursuing a graduate degree in administrative justice, talking about the first story about the incident that ran in Cville Weekly, ” which did not take into account the character of these two men, or attempt to get their side of the story.”
“We need to hold our powerful institutions accountable,” says Griffin, a graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington , who says they plan to launch a protest against the Cville Weekly for its coverage of the incident, and for a pair of editorials penned by the paper’s editor.
As for Stevenson, 25, and Spears, 23, who are both openly gay, they say they were “shocked” by how a late-night drunken altercation on the Mall was portrayed as a “knock out” style attack. According to Stevenson, a graduate of the University of Virginia and a manager at Eppie’s restaurant on the Downtown Mall (he was suspended from that job after the story broke, he says), he and his friend Spears, who he describes as being “very drunk” at the time (Spears confirmed this, while Stevenson said he had only had “one” beer), were leaving Rapture at around 1:30am with a female friend, and on their way home, when they encountered the alleged victims, 39-year old Marc Adams and his girlfriend Jeanne Doucette in front of the Wells Fargo Bank building.
According to Stevenson, Adams was actually leaning on the building to hold himself up because he was “plastered” drunk. Doucette, says Stevenson, was trying to help him up so he could walk. Spears admits he laughed at the couple, saying “Wow, they’re way drunker that we are.” Stevenson says that Adams then fell down on to the Mall’s bricks, which made them all laugh.
Doucette, according to Spears, became upset at them for laughing, and began cursing at Spears, who says it was Doucette who said something that escalated the confrontation, calling him a “black faggot.”
Spears says that Doucette then charged at him and pushed him, and he pushed and slapped her back. Stevenson, who says he had been walking ahead with his female friend, turned back and got in between the two, pleading for them to stop. Stevenson then says that his group was trying to get away when Adams got up and began following them.
“I think he was just trying to defend his girlfriend’s honor,” says Stevenson,” but the more I told him needed to stop, that he needed to go away, the more aggressive he became.”
“Asked if they were “joking, laughing, high-fiving, and hugging” during the altercation, as the couple has alleged, the two men said “absolutely not.”
Stevenson says he continued to tell Adams to stop, calm down, and go home, and at one point, when Adams got too close, Stevenson pushed him. At that point, says Stevenson, people on the Mall at the time began to notice what was happening, and that an unidentified black male who was not part of their group, who Stevenson says is pictured in one of the photos that Doucette took of the incident and posted on Facebook, intervened and tried to calm Adams down. Indeed, Adams and Doucette, in their account of the incident in Cville Weekly, said they were attacked by “three” black males. However, only Stevenson and Spears were arrested and charged. Stevenson then claimed that the unidentified man “punched Adams in the face.”
Stevenson says he never struck Adams or Doucette.
“I’m not a violent person,” says Stevenson. “Violence of any kind is not me, anyone who knows me could tell you that. I will use my words before I use my fists.”
“Look at us,” says Stevenson, a tall, thin young man, wearing skin tight black pants, boots with high heels, a shirt with star buttons, and sporting the same long “skunk” hat he was wearing the night of the incident. Spears, who is studying full-time to be a massage therapist at the Virginia School of Massage, was shy and soft-spoken during the interview. “We are not thugs, obviously, far from it.”
According to court records, Stevenson and Spears have no history of criminal violence, although Spears has a 2012 “public swearing/intoxication” charge and Stevenson has several traffic violations. Adams has been convicted twice for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
“Mr. Adams was wasted out of his mind,” says Stevenson,” that’s why he fell. And I got arrested for pushing him away when he got in my face? Are you kidding me?”
At a press conference following the arrests, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo put to rest the notion that this was a “knock out” style attack, characterizing it instead as a “verbal confrontation” that escalated in to a “physical confrontation.” However, Stevenson said he’s puzzled by how the confrontation was described, given the fact, he says, that they voluntarily met with the police to tell their side of the story.
Stevenson says he isn’t saying he shouldn’t be charged with something, as he participated in the altercation, but he’s surprised that the police chose to charge he and Spears exclusively, both because there was another man involved, who actually punched Adams, and because of Adams and Doucette’s participation in the altercation.
“If I’m going to be held accountable for my actions,” says Stevenson, “then they (Adams and Doucette) need to be held accountable for theirs.”
Spears also mentioned that Doucette, while she was cursing at him, threatened him by telling him that they were going to be portrayed as thugs in the press “because we are white.”
“It saddens me in my heart that this happens to African-Americans all the time,” says Spears.
“We just want the whole story to come out,” says Redd-Martin,” and for the public to know that these two men are not what they were portrayed to be.”