KKK figure sentenced to eight years for firing gun at Virginia rally
FILE PHOTO: Richard Preston Jr, 53, appears in a booking photo provided by the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., May 9, 2018. Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail/Handout via REUTERS

A Maryland man who identified himself as a leader of the Ku Klux Klan was sentenced on Tuesday to eight years in prison, four of which were suspended, for firing a pistol during last summer’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Richard Preston, 53, who identified himself to media as the Imperial Wizard of the KKK white supremacist group, pleaded guilty in Charlottesville Circuit Court. According to media reports, Preston has argued he was acting in self defense.

At the same “Unite the Right” rally, a man drove a car into a group of demonstrators protesting against white nationalists, killing a woman. James Alex Fields faces murder and hate crime charges in forthcoming trials in that incident.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia had posted a video on Twitter of a man, who media reports identified as Preston, walking in a crowd past a man wielding a flamethrower, before walking back toward the man and firing at him at close range.

Preston was charged with shooting a firearm within 1,000 feet (305m) of a school. In addition to the prison sentence, he received three years probation, according to court documents.

The man with the flamethrower, Corey Long, was not injured. Long was found guilty of disorderly conduct, according to court records. He has appealed the sentence, and the appeal trial will start in January.

Prosecutors and Preston’s lawyer were not immediately available to comment.

Reporting by Makini Brice; editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler