The man who made national news last May for driving his tanker into a massive George-Floyd protest in Minneapolis -- just six days after Floyd's murder-- "will see the two criminal charges against him dropped if he remains law-abiding for the next year," according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Bogdan Vechirko, 36, of Otsego, MN, was allowed to enter what is called a " continuance without prosecution" agreement with Hennepin County prosecutors before a district judge Friday. Here's how the Star-Tribune reported the development:
"Vechirko appeared via an online court session that lasted about 20 minutes. The arrangement is not a plea bargain and he didn't speak beyond saying, "yes sir" to Koch's questions about the process. Vechirko wore a suitcoat and dress shirt as he sat behind attorney Kevin DeVore.
"Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman didn't charge Vechirko in the incident until last October, months after it transpired. In charging Vechirko with threats of violence, a felony, and criminal vehicular operation, a gross misdemeanor, the prosecutor said he had admitted to investigators that he was "kind of in a hurry," and that the investigation found he sought to "scare" protesters out of his path.
"The incident was especially unsettling because it came amid days and nights of upheaval in the Twin Cities following Floyd's murder by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Like Floyd's killing, the incident on the bridge was captured on surveillance cameras.
"Vechirko was seen driving his big rig onto the bridge as hundreds of pedestrians protested the death of Floyd. Vechirko said at the time he was returning from a fuel delivery in south Minneapolis and didn't intend to drive into the protest or aim to hurt anyone.
"But the criminal complaint said investigators reviewed cellphone videos showing that Vechirko should have known something was occurring on the bridge because of the large crowd and vehicles stopped on I-35W northbound on the road leading to the bridge.
"The agreement approved Friday requires Vechirko to remain law-abiding for a year, pay restitution and attend three sentencing circles. He's already attended two. Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Daniel Allard said Vechirko would be required to pay restitution, but he was unable to provide an amount to the court Friday.
While Vechirko didn't address the court during the brief hearing, one victim was allowed to provide a statement.
Bennett Hartz of Minneapolis, a protester on the bridge that day, talked about the ongoing trauma he experiences from the event, saying he still has nightmares and jumps out of his skin when he hears fireworks or a car backfire. Hartz called it a "miracle" that no one was killed that day.
"Koch acknowledged that, saying, 'I don't think anybody looking at that would have taken any bet that no one would be seriously injured.'
"The criminal complaint said "at least" one protester suffered abrasions as she jumped to get out of the truck's path.
"None of the protesters who attacked and injured Vechirko was charged. Vechirko suffered cuts to his face, and his wife told the Star Tribune that his cellphone, wallet and other items in the truck's cab were stolen."
The incident was reported at RawStory last July as part of a story describing how Trump supporters were getting away with attacking and killing BLM protesters. Here's a passage about Vechirko:
"On May 31, Vechirko drove a tanker truck through protesters on a highway in Minneapolis. Video shows thousands fleeing in panic as Vechirko barrels an 18-wheeler toward them. Newscasters gasped that he went "pretty fast into that crowd." He stops feet short of hitting a person. Another video shows him stopping twice and driving toward the crowd despite bikes and other objects being thrown beneath his truck and protesters clambering on the truck to stop him. Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said, "It was one of the most dangerous things I've ever seen." Protesters said, "It was a miracle no one was hurt."Vechirko is also a Trump donor. He's given more than $300 to the "Trump Make America Great Again Committee" and the Republican National Committee since 2018. Vechirko, who has a criminal history that includes arrest for domestic assault, is among 19 documented vehicle attacks against protesters in three weeks. The attacks are reminiscent of the neo-Nazi who murdered anti-racist activist Heather Heyer with a car as she protested right-wing extremists in Charlottesville in 2017, and deadly vehicle attacks by religious extremists inspired by the Islamic State. Despite the grave danger he created, Vechirko was released without charges. The Democratic governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, claims Vechirko appeared confused and was frustrated because the highway was closed. The state has not indicated what is confusing about intentionally driving an 18-wheeler at high speed towards thousands of people, or why being frustrated at traffic mitigates an assault that could have resulted in mass casualties. There is a petition with nearly 50,000 signatures demanding Vechirko be charged."
OAKLAND, Calif. — A 54-year-old man was arrested Thursday for allegedly assaulting Gov. Gavin Newsom in downtown Oakland, authorities said. Newsom was in town to promote support for small businesses. Before stopping at Beastmode Barbershop and Graffiti Pizza, the governor came across the 54-year-old while walking on Washington Street in Old Oakland. “This morning, the Governor was approached by an aggressive individual. Members of the Governor’s security detail removed the Governor from the situation and the individual was arrested by CHP officers,” the CHP, which provides security for the gov...
Far-right apologists for the January 6 insurrectionists, from Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia to Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to Fox News' Tucker Carlson, have seriously downplayed the violence that occurred that day at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Johnson has defended the rioters as "people that love this country" and said there was "no violence" during that attack; Clyde has compared the January 6 attack to a "normal tourist visit," while Carlson has defended the insurrectionists as "sad, disenfranchised people." But conservative columnist Charlie Sykes sees nothing innocent or harmless about the January 6 insurrection, and he emphasizes that Republican apologists for the rioters have given Russian President Vladimir Putin an anti-U.S. talking point.
In his June 17 column for The Bulwark, the Never Trump conservative writes, "Our current sludge of disinformation, bilge and crackpottery is thoroughly domestic, amplified by a million voices on social media, national networks, and until recently, the White House itself. And now, it has come full circle as Russian President Vladimir Putin feeds back our homegrown disinformation. (The Washington Post's) Dana Milbank notes the symmetry: 'For the past few years, Republicans in Congress have echoed Russian propaganda. On Wednesday, in Geneva, Vladimir Putin returned the favor: He echoed Republican propaganda.'"
Putin's allies in the Kremlin, Sykes laments, "have adopted the talking points of" American "right-wing media about January 6." On June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland, Sykes notes, Putin pointed out that the January 6 rioters are facing "very harsh sentences."
"Putin took the opportunity to emphasize the point," Sykes writes. "Asked about his repression of political dissent, Putin put on a bravura performance of whataboutism."
In Geneva, Putin brought up Ashli Babbitt, a Capitol rioter fatally shot on January 6 — and Sykes writes that comparing the shooting of Babbitt to human rights abuses in Russia is ludicrous.
"Afterward, President Biden called the comparison 'ridiculous,' as indeed it was," Sykes observes. "But the whole episode showed how our political world has devolved in just a few years."
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