The attorney for Vauhxx Booker, the Indiana civil rights activist who was allegedly assaulted near a lake outside of Bloomington on July 4, said Monday that “it is time for arrests” in the case that Booker has called an “attempted lynching.”
Earlier Monday, attorneys for Sean Purdy and Caroline McCord, who were present during the alleged assault, held a press conference accusing Booker of twisting the altercation. Video footage of part of the incident showed Purdy holding onto Booker and McCord shouting at him and others to let Booker go.
Booker had recorded his experience in a Facebook post shortly after the alleged attack, saying that a group of people, including Purdy and McCord, repeatedly harassed him and his friends on their way to watch a lunar eclipse near Lake Monroe. Ultimately, Booker claimed, some of the group jumped and beat him and at one point called for someone to “get a noose.”
The attorneys for Purdy and McCord contradicted Booker’s claims, saying Monday that Booker was actually the “instigator and agitator” and that he’s creating a “false narrative” to whip up sympathy and media attention.
“It’s time for the truth to be told,” said attorney David Hennessy. “Mr. Booker threw the punches. Mr. Booker was restrained. Not beaten. Restrained.”
Booker’s attorney, Katharine Liell, accused the alleged assailants of “re-victimizing” Booker with their new claims.
“Mr. Booker did not instigate this encounter; he did not provoke anyone to hold him against his will,” Liell said in a statement. “He did not yell or shout or lose his temper.”
Hennessy said that Purdy and McCord told Booker that he was on private property, and that they had an amicable conversation. Hours later, the lawyer claimed, Booker came back and threatened to “ruin their lives,” pretending to be a county commissioner. Shortly after, Hennessy said that Booker started punching Purdy.
He claimed that Booker “baited” some members of the group into saying racist things, which date back to the time of his “grandparents.”
The attorney added that there is more video to back up that version of events.
Hennessy told TPM that his legal team “doesn’t know” if the FBI, which opened an investigation into the episode last week, has seen the additional video.
“Our folks weren’t expecting a confrontation so no phones at the ready,” he said. He added that the video captures McCord saying that Booker’s actions are an “abuse of power.”
Booker had written in his Facebook account of the incident that someone in the group said “white power” at one point during the episode, but it is not clear if he was talking about the same exchange.
“You can clearly hear Caroline say abuse of power, not white power, and it is her and Mr. Booker walking along after his harrowing near lynching,” Hennessy added. “Too much of what he says makes no sense.”
Attorney Andrew Baldwin, who is also representing McCord and Purdy, sent TPM what he called “unedited” video from YouTube that shows Booker and McCord in conversation, and later captures her accusing him of abusing his power and being “worse than the police.”
Hennessy also said during the press conference that his clients had taken lie detector tests and urged Booker to take one as well. “We challenge Mr. Booker to take a polygraph, we’ll pay for it, so he doesn’t have to use any of his GoFundMe,” he said.
Polygraph tests are generally inadmissible in court in Indiana, unless both parties of a criminal case agree beforehand in writing that the tests may be used by either side.
Liell, Booker’s attorney, pointed to the bystander videos posted alongside Booker’s Facebook account. Only one captures part of the physical altercation, showing Booker slumped on the ground at the foot of a tree while three men and one woman hold him. Witnesses can be heard yelling at the group to let Booker go.
The other videos show the scene after Booker was released, when some of the people who had been holding him left. One of the remaining men repeatedly calls the bystanders “liberal fucks” and Booker a “nappy-headed bitch.”
“There are witnesses who saw Sean Purdy’s aggression and who heard the racist slurs of his friends,” Liell said. “You cannot provoke racism.”
Liell also said that Booker had been meeting with FBI agents Monday while Purdy and McCord’s attorneys were giving their press conference.
Before the federal intervention, the law enforcement arm of the Department of Natural Resources was investigating the case after their officers responded to Booker’s 911 call. DNR Capt. Jet Quillen told TPM that when they finished investigating, a report would be given to the Monroe County prosecutor who would decide whether to press charges.
Liell has additionally called on the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana to impanel a grand jury to “investigate hate crimes from Indianapolis to the River Ohio,” saying that only that office has a civil rights division and sufficient resources to investigate hate crimes cases.
Monica Foster, chief public defender at the Indiana Federal Community Defender’s office, responded to Liell’s Facebook post urging the U.S. attorney’s office to action.
“Good luck with that one,” she wrote. “We have 10% black and brown folk in the southern district of Indiana. In 2019, he brought 67% of gun cases and 73% of drug cases against black and brown citizens. Sickening.”