NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Justin Jones called it poetic justice as a judge dismissed his assault charge, on the same day Nathan Bedford Forrest was removed from the Tennessee Capitol.
Jones was accused of striking TN State Trooper Asa Pearl during a protest in July of 2020, but the defense argued there was too much doubt as to what happened.
The day began with Pearl taking the stand and testifying that on that night, Jones and other protesters broke the barricade near the Capitol. Word came down from his superiors that troopers could begin arresting any protesters still in the area. Chaos ensued and protesters scattered, with Pearl chasing close behind Jones.
Pearl said he caught up to Jones, touched his shoulder and that’s when Jones allegedly struck him with the megaphone. Pearl picked up the megaphone and walked back to the Capitol with what he said was some swelling around his eye. He turned the megaphone into his superiors and several hours later filed a citation against Jones for assault.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Nick Leonardo explained to the judge that Pearl had told him in a room that the megaphone in his hand was the megaphone Jones used against him.
Leonardo asked Pearl, “it’s your testimony right now under oath that as we were sitting in that room that you did not say that was the megaphone you collected that night.” Pearl replied by saying, “I cannot answer with a yes or no question, sir. It would require some explanation.”
Pearl was ordered to obtain the megaphone in question which was blue and white. A stark contrast to the red megaphones used by protestors according to a video from that night. Pearl explained that he thought he grabbed the right megaphone.
“They said this was the only megaphone they had in the locker under storage,” Pearl said.
There were no troopers around to see the alleged assault, but witnesses for the defense both said they did not see the Jones strike anyone. One witness included State Sen. Jeff Yarbro who said he was there to make sure the protest did not get out of hand.
It was all very confusing for Judge Jones who said this created enough doubt as to if there was ever a megaphone in the first place. If Jones did have a megaphone as he ran, Judge Jones said it’s reasonable to consider, “that someone might swing, not intending to swing.” With this particular charge of assault requiring some element of intent, Judge Jones said the state did not meet their burden of proof.
Judge Jones dismissed the charge to roaring applause from supporters. Jones and attorney Leonardo embraced before leading a large group procession down the courthouse to even more supporters outside.
“Justice doesn’t always prevail, but today it did prevail and I look forward to our day in court for the other two charges. It’s two good days,” Leonardo said.
The overwhelming emotion of the day washed over Jones who made it clear to the media that there are always two sides to the story. He says from the very beginning he had nothing to hide.
“We ask the media to look at the whole story. Do not take the DA’s word as fact and law, because when it comes to court, you can see another side to the story,” Jones said.
Jones said how previous reports made protesters out to be violent when in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. He says the same thing was done years ago, with people we honor to this day.
“We love John Lewis, but just 60 years ago, they were hated in these very buildings. They have mugshots just like us. They were portrayed as violent just like us, but the truth and history has a way of righting wrongs,” Jones said.