Two men were sentenced Thursday to a year in jail for charges related to an altercation last summer during racial justice protests in Lexington.
Kaulbert Wilson and Dylan Dempster, both 20, received their sentences Thursday morning after pleading guilty in April. Both were initially facing felony charges, but after their charges were amended in their pleas, the most serious charge against each was a class A misdemeanor.
Wilson pleaded guilty to second-degree riot, fourth-degree assault, second-degree disorderly conduct and two counts of third-degree criminal mischief. Dempster pleaded guilty to amended charges of second-degree riot and two counts of third-degree criminal mischief.
The charges stemmed from an incident during an otherwise peaceful protest for police accountability on June 1, 2020. During his April plea, Dempster said that he was blocking traffic at Midland Avenue and Main Street from turning into oncoming protesters when a man and woman got out of a car and started yelling at him.
At that point, people in the group of protesters ran up and a fight occurred, Dempster said during his plea. Dempster admitted to smashing their windshield with a skateboard during the altercation, and Wilson admitted to hitting the man who got out of the car.
Prosecutors have acknowledged that one of the people who got out of the car used a racial slur toward the crowd. But the man Wilson hit did not say the slur, prosecutors said. The man was taken to a local hospital with a concussion, police said at the time.
Wilson’s attorney, Daniel Whitley, Sr., acknowledged that the person who was hit had not said the slur. But in a situation like that where a slur is used, there will be a reaction of anger, he said.
Attorneys for Wilson and Dempster asked for probation instead of jail time.
Whitley told Judge Thomas Travis that his client had received help and medication to control the kinds of behaviors he’d exhibited at protests last summer. Probation is designed to help people with misdemeanor cases like Wilson’s, Whitley said.
Dempster’s attorney, Bonnie Potter, also asked for probation, saying that her client had turned things around, held a job for months and had recently been promoted to assistant manager. Keeping the job would make it easier for Dempster to pay the $441 restitution required in the next 90 days, Potter said.
Despite the requests, Travis denied probation in both cases. Jail time was necessary to protect the public, and probation would depreciate the seriousness of the offenses, Travis said.
“Without question, the defendant’s conduct on the occasion in question is inconsistent with the notion of peaceful protest and contrary to the rule of law,” Travis said in Dempster’s case. “This community is fortunate that his actions did not lead to an even more violent escalation resulting in further harm to the city, like the harm that happened to many other cities across the country last summer.”
Whitley acknowledged that Travis often requires at least some amount of jail time in most criminal cases. But he told Travis that Wilson would be a good candidate for shock probation after serving some time.
After sentencing both men, Travis told their attorneys that there are a number of post-sentencing remedies available to Wilson and Dempster, including shock probation. If motions were filed, the judge said, he would consider them. He also told Potter that a motion could be filed to request work release for Dempster.