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12 of 14 protest cases set for trial April 7 continued; two dismissed

Alamance County assistant district attorney Kevin Harrison agreed to dismiss an assault charge against Avery Markel Harvey, 30, black male, of 704 Larry Avenue in Graham, after the alleged victim failed to appear in court to testify at trial Wednesday morning (April 7).

Avery Markel Harvey had one case dismissed; three others related to protests have been postponed. He also faces three charges unrelated to protests.

Harvey had been charged on September 5, 2020 with misdemeanor assault on a female, identified on a warrant as Maya Graves, whom he allegedly punched “in the face with a closed fist.” He is among dozens of defendants who were arrested at protests in downtown Graham following the May 25 death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

Trials began February 17 for the nearly five dozen defendants who were arrested at protests in Graham last year. Approximately 24 cases have been resolved, while 34 remain pending, based on Alamance County court files (see related story, this edition).

Harrison confirmed for The Alamance News Wednesday that the assault charge would be dismissed because retired visiting district court judge Lunsford Long, III of Orange County had denied his motion to continue the case. Graves was not present to testify at a trial that had been scheduled for Wednesday morning in Alamance County district court.

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“We have some scheduling issues so it’s going to take us a little [while] to get coordinated,” Long announced at the outset of Wednesday’s proceedings, before calling a recess that lasted just under two hours.

Harvey’s attorney, Jamie Paulen of Paulen Solidarity Law in Wake County, registered her objection to Harrison’s motion to continue the assault case. Paulen said she had been told that if the witness didn’t come to court, the case would be dismissed, adding, “She’s not here today,” referring to Graves, the alleged victim.

Meanwhile, two other men who identified themselves as witnesses in another case against Harvey appeared in district court Wednesday morning. Thomas May and Eddie Mercer, Jr., both of whom were frequently pictured at protests in Graham last year, confirmed Wednesday morning for an Alamance News reporter that the D.A.’s office had called them on Tuesday, asking them to appear in district court to testify the following morning.

Mercer confirmed in a separate interview with The Alamance News that both he and May had been asked to testify about a disturbance in downtown Graham, in which Harvey and another man had been charged with disorderly conduct on December 13, 2020. Mercer told the newspaper that he and May had been instructed to return to court next month to testify in that case.

Graham police responded around 2:00 p.m. the afternoon of December 13 to a call about a disturbance near Sesquicentennial Park in the northwest corner of Court Square, according to Graham police department spokesman Lt. Daniel Sisk. Both Harvey and Robert Horace Butler, Jr., 56, white male, of 2128 U.S. Highway 64 East, Pittsboro, were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, Sisk confirmed for the newspaper at the time.

Harvey was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly posing “himself in a manner indicating a willingness to fight,” Sisk described in the interview.

Butler was charged with disorderly conduct that was described as allegedly “shouting a racial slur” at Harvey, based on the description given by the police department’s spokesman.
Butler pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and received a prayer for judgment on February 1 of this year, according to his court file. A prayer for judgment means the conviction will be dismissed from his record, providing he has no subsequent charges or convictions for similar offenses.

Harvey’s trial for the December 13 charge has been continued until May 26, based on the latest information from the Alamance County criminal courts system.

In addition to his case stemming from the December 13 charge, Harvey had two other cases that were scheduled for trial Wednesday morning: a charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct related to a protest on September 26; and a misdemeanor charge of resisting a public officer related to the march and rally in downtown Graham on Halloween day. All three cases are currently scheduled for trial on May 26, according to the Alamance County courts system. He has three other pending charges that are unrelated to his participation at protests in downtown Graham last year, based on his court files.

Mercer, 71, white male, of 830 Monroe Holt Road in Graham, also has a pending trial on a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery, for alleged harassment during an anti-racist march near the Alamance County Historic Court House on September 21, 2020, according to the Graham police department. That case is currently scheduled to be heard in district court next Friday.

Dismissals in two of 14 cases set for trial on Wednesday; 12 others to be continued
Harrison also dismissed another case that had been scheduled for trial Wednesday afternoon.

Rikeah Nashea Johnson, 22, female, unknown race, of 1711 Vanderbilt Court in Graham, had been charged with disorderly conduct by fighting and resisting a public officer on September 5, 2020.

Johnson allegedly caused “a disturbance at an apartment by fighting with [a] resident, then after walking out into the parking lot, continued to stumble around and yell back at the resident,” according to a warrant issued by the Graham police department on September 5.

The warrant further alleged that Johnson “resisted arrest by pulling away from the officer while being put in handcuffs and then continued to refuse to put her hands behind her back after being forced to the ground.”

Harrison had confirmed for The Alamance News earlier in the day that only the charge of resisting an officer would be heard during the during the afternoon session in district court on Wednesday.

Approximately eight minutes after the afternoon session started, Harrison initially told Long that he was waiting on the arresting officer from the Graham police department to arrive in court to testify about the circumstances of Johnson’s arrest on September 5.

But about a minute later, Harrison smacked the court shuck on his makeshift desk at the front of the courtroom, telling judge that the state was “taking a dismissal” in this case, as well. “The agency returned a subpoena unserved,” the assistant D.A. said, apparently referring to the Alamance County sheriff’s office, which typically is responsible for serving subpoenas.

Meanwhile, Johnson has another pending case, for allegedly resisting a public officer during a protest in Court Square on September 26, 2020. Johnson had allegedly “attempted to pull another subject who was under arrest away from the arresting officers,” according to a warrant that was issued on the same date by the Alamance County sheriff’s department. Alamance County court files list the trial date for that case as May 26.

In all, 14 cases related to the 2020 protests in Graham had been listed on the district court docket for Wednesday. The two cases against Harvey and Johnson were dismissed prior to hearing any evidence or testimony; 12 other cases were to be rescheduled.
Most, though not all, of those trials are scheduled for Wednesdays, through late June, in Alamance County district court.

Long has agreed to preside over the trials related to the 2020 protests in Graham, though he is unavailable for the remainder of this month, Alamance County court officials have said. The protest trials are currently scheduled to resume May 5.

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