A judge declined Monday to punish a black University of North Carolina graduate student who admitted to pouring red ink and her own blood on a Confederate statue in a headline-grabbing protest that preceded the statue's toppling months later.
After a day of impassioned testimony, Orange County Judge Samantha Cabe said she struggled with whether to convict Maya Little on a misdemeanor count of defacing the monument known as Silent Sam last April.
Cabe noted the facts — including Little's admission on the stand — showed she was guilty, but the judge essentially withheld the verdict under a North Carolina judicial maneuver known as "continued judgment."
Little will face no sentence, and Cabe also waived any court fees or restitution.
Defense attorney Scott Holmes, who argued Little acted out of necessity similar to 1960s sit-in participants, said the judge's decision was "kind of like a tie."
Little was the last witness to testify, saying she wanted to add context showing that the Confederate statue represented violence against blacks: "I put my blood on Silent Sam because despite every machination to preserve it and make it pristine, our blood was always visible."
She testified she had tried other means of protest for months such as regularly handing out pamphlets with historical context and trying to meet with the administration.
"Despite every effort I made ... I was not only met with silence but also harassment," she said, later adding: "I felt that there was no other option."
Her testimony followed that of Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger and town Police Chief Chris Blue, who both said that the statue on a main campus quad made the community less safe, echoing previous statements. The defense had requested testimony from the campus police chief and Chancellor Carol Folt, but Cabe ruled they didn't have to testify.
Also in the morning, the judge watched body camera footage from UNC Police Lt. Jeff Mosher, who arrested Little. The April 30, 2018, footage showed him approaching as Little stood on the statue's pedestal and poured the ink out of a container. Mosher said she also pressed her hand, which was bleeding from being cut, on the statue, and he testified she later told him she had put ink and some of her own blood on the monument. He said the cut on her hand was treated by a fellow protester before Little was put in a police cruiser.
A campus maintenance supervisor testified it took several days to remove red stains at a cost of about $4,000 in supplies and labor.
The statue of an anonymous bronze Confederate soldier stood for a century in a main UNC quad before it was toppled in August by protesters. Little is not among the people charged with tearing the statue down; their cases on misdemeanor charges are pending. The statue has been in storage while campus leaders debate its fate.