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Jury acquits Black Lives Matter protester of both charges related to state senator assault

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A Dane County jury Tuesday acquitted a Madison woman of two charges connected to the 2020 assault of state Sen. Tim Carpenter amid Downtown racial justice demonstrations.

The verdict came after the jury deliberated for nearly four hours, and after Kerida O’Reilly, 34, of Madison, delivered testimony in response to Carpenter’s statements about the June 24, 2020, protests.

O’Reilly was charged with a felony and a misdemeanor for being a party to substantial battery and disorderly conduct. It was alleged that O’Reilly had sparked the attack on Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, by rushing toward him after observing he was taking a video of demonstrators.

But O’Reilly, who uses they/them pronouns, told the jury Tuesday morning that while the events of June 24 were emotionally charged and chaotic, they did not harm Carpenter as they are “a peaceful person by nature.” Their presence at the demonstrations, O’Reilly testified, was solely in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and against police brutality.

O’Reilly’s attorney, Jessa Nicholson Goetz, called several witnesses to the stand who were either with O’Reilly June 24 or have observed O’Reilly’s character. She said during an impassioned closing argument that Carpenter’s story about the attack changed over time.

“This is a story (Carpenter) has convinced himself of,” she said.

Witnesses included former co-defendant Samantha Hamer, of Madison, and a 2020 demonstrator identifying himself as Hart Miller. Miller told the jury during his testimony he saw three men punch Carpenter during the 2020 attack — not O’Reilly.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Humphrey maintained during his closing argument and rebuttal that Carpenter’s story remained consistent, and that there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that O’Reilly’s actions led to the assault. Carpenter is an ally to the protesters, Humphrey said, but he was seen as an “enemy” that night.

“They put him in a vulnerable position,” Humphrey told the jury.

There were hundreds of demonstrators at the scene after O’Reilly arrived, O’Reilly testified. They were among a group of protesters that “stood for a while and began marching toward and around” the State Capitol Downtown.

Later that night, there was a noise that sounded like a gunshot, as well as two cars that drove into the crowd, O’Reilly recalled, which added to the “fear, determination and anger” of the evening.

When the group approached Fairchild Street and stopped by some barriers, O’Reilly testified, O’Reilly observed “a white man standing on the corner with his phone out.” They allegedly saw his “eyes narrow” and that he “got a smirk.”

Carpenter’s demeanor, O’Reilly testified, seemed to be that of an authority figure. O’Reilly guessed Carpenter could have been an “off-duty police officer.”

For fears of doxing — a term referring to the publication of private identifying information about a particular individual on the internet, typically with malicious intent — O’Reilly testified that they and Hamer approached Carpenter to inform him about not wanting to be recorded. Hamer’s testimony corroborated O’Reilly’s.

Video evidence depicts both O’Reilly and Hamer running to Carpenter before a “leave my phone alone” can be heard and the screen goes black. That’s when O’Reilly testified they attempted to “block his camera.”

Carpenter testified Monday that he does not believe O’Reilly struck him after others followed her and converged on him, knocking him off balance.

O’Reilly testified they instead went back to try and help Carpenter after the attack began.

Before then, O’Reilly said they “stopped moving” and took a step back, likening the experience to an adrenaline rush. The next thing O’Reilly knew, they testified, Carpenter was 15 feet away and on the ground.

“That was a fairly traumatic moment for me,” O’Reilly told the jury.

“You are allowed to object to being recorded,” Nicholson Goetz said during her closing argument.


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