Augusta Deputy Charged for Assaulting Two, Including Black Lives Matter Leader in Staunton Virginia
Written by: Sam Orlando
Staunton, VA - A harrowing incident of alleged police violence rocked the city of Staunton on August 31, 2022. Central to this controversy is Augusta County Sheriff's Deputy CJ Taylor. Today, we probe the depths of the assault and battery charges against him, the legal consequences he could face under Virginia law, and the administrative aftershocks that followed.
WHAT PROMPTED THE CHARGES?
Emerging footage from last year reveals Deputy Taylor in the act of purportedly assaulting Antwhon Suiter, the President of Black Lives Matter Shenandoah Valley, and police auditor Chris Shifflett during a seemingly ordinary traffic stop. Responding to these new legal developments, Suiter expresses cautious hope, stating, "I am satisfied this prosecution is moving forward. A police officer shouldn't assault individuals simply for recording them."
Highlighting what he terms a "culture of no accountability and no consequences," Suiter criticizes the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, suggesting that the involvement of an independent prosecutor from outside Augusta County might finally hold parts of what he describes as the "Sheriff's criminal enterprise" accountable.
SUITS, SCANDALS, AND ALLEGED SYSTEMIC RACISM
Last year, Suiter initiated charges against David Bourne, the Republican Party Chair and a current Augusta County Treasurer candidate, over alleged petit larceny of a sign and GPS device. Suiter appreciates the intervention of the State Police and Special Prosecutor in Deputy Taylor's case, contrasting it with his earlier justice pursuit that he feels "got derailed by Bourne's prosecutor neighbor."
Even though Bourne had a warrant issued against him by a judicial officer, Tim Martin, the elected Commonwealth Attorney for Augusta County—and notably, Bourne's neighbor—dismissed the charges in under 24 hours, purportedly without notifying Suiter. Recalling this incident, Suiter remarked, "I was told that due to perceived corruption leading to the unfair dropping of my charges, only the GPS device's owner could prosecute. Our only apparent difference? I'm Black; he's white. Access to justice shouldn't be dictated by race."
Suiter added that he, and any of the protestors who joined him for protests at the Augusta County Sheriff's Office last year, are not able to seek services from magistrates in Augusta County. Suiter reports he has to travel to Roanoke, Lynchburg, or get an attorney to schedule a meeting with a magistrate. "There just shouldn't be two justice systems for people because of the color of their skin". said Suiter.
LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS AHEAD
Zooming back to Deputy Taylor's scenario, understanding the potential legal fallout is pivotal. Virginia Code § 18.2-57 classifies assault and battery as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Convictions could result in up to a year in jail, fines reaching $2,500, or both. With Taylor facing dual charges, consecutive convictions could amplify his penalties.
In the incident's wake, Sheriff Donald Smith's choice to grant Taylor paid administrative leave—despite the allegation's severity—sparked widespread controversy and indignation. With charges now formally filed against Taylor, the community is awaiting updates on his employment status. Will he face another leave, and will it be with or without pay?
Roanoke's elected Commonwealth's Attorney, Donald Caldwell, is the special prosecutor in the cases brought in the City of Staunton, according to Suiter. Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Gaines requested the appointment of Caldwell because of concerns that his office may be biased, since it has worked with Deputy Taylor in the past. As Augusta County and the broader nation monitor this case, it's imperative that justice isn't merely served, but also visibly so.
For those wanting to witness the incident firsthand, the crucial cell phone and dash cam recordings are available below. These videos underscore the pressing need for systemic reform and an unwavering commitment to justice.