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Foreman Plea Bargain Reduces Charges From Felony To Misdemeanor

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William Clay Foreman was charged with felony property damage after he rented a truck, hooked his chain to the Robert E. Lee obelisk and pulled it off its pedestal on July 22, 2021.

The obelisk made of granite stood 10 feet tall, and the memorial pillar had stood in Lee Plaza since the Daughters of the Confederacy erected the spire to Lee in the fall of 1960.

Police found the granite spire broken into three pieces, and Foreman was tracked down and arrested for the crime that he claimed he committed to prevent rioting that he perceived might take place in Lee Plaza following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody.

Roanoke City Council had planned to remove the memorial to Lee after a law in Virginia was passed that reversed a previous law that prevented the removal of Civil War monuments.

Foreman’s actions accomplished what the authorities had planned to do in terms of removing the obelisk, but the memorial would have been preserved and moved into a museum or other indoor facility perhaps rather than broken into pieces had the city had the opportunity to remove it.

The plea bargaining reduced Foreman’s charge of felony property damage to a misdemeanor. The 72-year-old U.S. Navy veteran claimed that he was acting to prevent rioting in Roanoke similar to what was going on at the time in Richmond and Portsmouth where protesters were pulling down statues that were erected to commemorate Lee and other generals who served under him during the American Civil War.

Roanoke officials have removed the pieces of the monument and renamed Lee Plaza for Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who was born in Roanoke. She became the source of an immortal human cell line that led to major medical improvements. She was not informed that her biopsied cells were cultured for research and was never paid for their use.

Judge Chris Clemens accepted the agreement between the defense and the prosecutors that Foreman would pay $482.82 in restitution to the City of Roanoke and a $500 fine plus court costs. Foreman agreed and expressed his gratitude to all concerned.

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