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No, Donald Trump Won't Be Charged With Inciting A Riot

Protesters are removed as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., last Wednesday.
Gerry Broome
Protesters are removed as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., last Wednesday.

Update: The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office officially decided not to file charges against Donald Trump, North Carolina TV station WRAL reports:

"By Monday night, investigators determined that 'the evidence does not meet the requisites of the law as established under the relevant North Carolina statute and case law to support a conviction of the crime of inciting a riot,' sheriff's office spokesman Sean Swain said in a statement."

Original Post: Donald Trump has denied that escalating violence and heated confrontations at his political rallies were his responsibility, but one local law enforcement group weighed testing that on Monday.

Local station WRAL was the first to report that the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office was considering charging the GOP presidential front-runner with inciting a riot after a protester was punched in the face during a rally Trump held in Fayetteville, N.C., last week. Now the office seems to have reconsidered that.

John Franklin McGraw, 78, was charged with assault and disorderly conduct after the incident. Trump said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press that he is considering helping McGraw with his legal bills.

Even as Trump insisted several times over the weekend after a Chicago rally was canceled Friday evening in the wake of escalating tensions that his rhetoric was not to blame, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said that required more investigation.

"We are concerned about a number of things in that speech. We are concerned about activity associated with that speech. That does not mean that we have decided to charge anyone," Ronnie Mitchell, an attorney for the sheriff's office, told WRAL.

"People are responsible for what they do and what they say. Part of our investigation has been looking into those issues," Mitchell added.

Department spokesman Sgt. Sean Swain later told the Daily Beast that they had determined Trump's actions didn't meet the statute. As WRAL noted, state law defines a riot as "a public disturbance involving an assemblage of three or more persons which by disorderly and violent conduct, or the imminent threat of disorderly and violent conduct, results in injury or damage to persons or property or creates a clear and present danger of injury or damage to persons or property." It would be a misdemeanor charge unless the riot causes serious injury or more than $1,500 in property damage, which would be a felony.

"We would have made the charges by now" if the events last Wednesday met that standard, Swain told the Daily Beast on the record.

But then after that report, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office put out a press release, under Swain's name, underscoring that their investigation was "not complete."

"We are continuing to look at the totality of these circumstances, including any additional charges against Mr. McGraw, including the potential of whether there was conduct on the part of Mr. Trump or the Trump campaign which rose to the level of inciting a riot, and including the actions or inactions of our deputies," the statement read.

Attorney Mitchell told the that charges against Trump remained unlikely.

"It doesn't appear that we have sufficient evidence to warrant charging him at this time," the attorney told the Post.

NPR has reached out to the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office for comment but has not received a response.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the Post, "There was a great feeling of warmth, well-being and even love in the arena" last week, and that if anyone was guilty of breaking the law, "it is the protesters and agitators who are in violation, not Mr. Trump or the campaign."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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