Last summer, a Black Indiana activist says he was attacked by a group of white men and nearly lynched (he claims a noose was mentioned) as he walked with a friend to a park, and the video showing the incident went viral. Two men, Sean Purdy and Jerry Cox II, were charged in July 2020 for felony battery, intimidation, and criminal confinement, but on Friday, there were new assault and trespassing charges announced by Sonia Leerkamp, the special prosecutor for Monroe County—this time against Vauhxx Booker, the man who says he was attacked. A local NAACP rep says Booker faces more than three years in prison and $15,000 in fines "for being subjected to a racist assault." Booker says the charges against him are retaliation by Leerkamp, who took over the case at the end of July 2020 after the state prosecutor suddenly recused herself. Per the Washington Post, Booker says Leerkamp, whom he now wants to resign, pressured him to agree to mediation.
That means, per Booker, he'd have to publicly forgive his alleged attackers and sign a confidentiality deal so charges against Purdy and Cox could be dropped—something he won't do. "I don't care if [Leerkamp] drags me back to the hanging tree," he says. "I am not going to back down." In a statement, Leerkamp notes, "Mr. Booker is presumed innocent of any charges that have been filed. That being said, unlike Mr. Booker, I am ethically restrained from commenting upon the evidence prior to its presentation at trial. I am doing my best to apply the law to the facts." Per NBC News, state investigators had released a report shortly after the incident showing there may have been potential crimes committed by Booker, but the original prosecutor in the case didn't bring charges. Booker's lawyer says she's never seen new charges filed like this a year after the fact. "There's nothing more American than charging a Black man in his own attempted lynching," Booker said Monday. (Read more Indiana stories.)