A 61-year-old man who breathed on protesters while wearing a Trump innertube has been charged with assault, after a heated encounter outside the president’s Virginia golf course on Saturday.
Raymond Deskins, 61, of Sterling, Va., faces one count of misdemeanour assault after a citizen obtained a warrant through a county magistrate, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
The charge stems from an encounter captured partially on video outside the Trump National Golf Club, where Deskins and two anti-Trump protesters engaged in a shouting match over the weekend. The brief video has circulated widely on social media, although it does not show how the argument began.
The video opens with Deskins shouting at a protester while standing right in front of her. Deskins is not wearing a mask or standing at a distance of six feet — two measures that doctors recommend to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Get away from me, get away from me, get away from me!” the woman with the camera can be heard saying, while the man stands immediately in front of her.
Deskins then steps away and walks toward the other woman.
“Do what you want, sweetheart. I’m not in anybody’s face,” he says in the video.
“You are in my face, and you don’t have a mask, so you need to back up,” the other woman says.
The man inhales deeply and breathes forcefully at her, then turns away with a smirk on his face.
“That’s assault!” the women yell at him.
“I breathed on you!” the man says. He then lets out another huff at the woman with the camera. “Now call the cops and ask them to come get me, you simpleton.”
Photos and video show the man was wearing an inner-tube around his belly that had been styled to look like U.S. President Donald Trump. He also sported a Trump campaign shirt.
Protester Kathy Beynette says she started recording the video after the man came “charging across the street” to confront her and her friend.
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“He just proceeded to assault us by taking a deep breath and doing a very powerful exhalation on both of us,” Beynette told NBC Washington.
Beynette added that she’s cancelled her Thanksgiving plans because she worries the man might have given her and her friend the coronavirus.
“We’re both senior citizens both close to 70 years old, which puts us in a high-risk category,” she said.
The outgoing president spent Saturday and Sunday golfing. Pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators gathered outside the golf course on both days.
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The sheriff’s office announced the charge on Sunday.
“As the incident was not witnessed by law enforcement and the video did not capture the entire interaction, an investigation was conducted on scene and both parties were advised they could go to a Loudoun County Magistrate and seek a citizen obtained warrant,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
One of the protesters obtained that warrant, and the sheriff’s deputies served it to Deskins on Sunday afternoon.
He was released on a summons.
The assault allegation has not been tested in court.
Heavy breathing, coughing and spitting have become extremely contentious in 2020, as the global coronavirus pandemic has made people more afraid of one another’s germs. Some have shown they are willing to weaponize that fear in a dispute.
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Partisan tensions have been running high in the United States this month, particularly in the wake of the president’s election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. Trump has refused to concede the election and has falsely alleged widespread voter fraud, without presenting evidence in public or in court. Many of his supporters have loudly backed his claims, while his opponents have denounced him with equal force.
Biden won the popular vote by six million, and appears to have secured a larger electoral college win than Trump did in 2016. Trump described that win at the time as a “landslide.”
Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021.
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