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Vauhxx Booker: “I Am Not Going To Back Down”

Vauhxx Booker spoke August 2 outside the Monroe County Court House. (Alex Paul, WTIU/WFIU News)

Attorneys for Vauhxx Booker say they will challenge charges filed against their client on Friday stemming from an incident at Lake Monroe last summer. 

Special prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp announced charges of misdemeanor trespass and felony battery against Booker Friday, more than a year after the incident. An initial hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 13. 

“We have it on our calendar, but we anticipate filing challenges before the initial hearing challenging what the special prosecutor has done,” said Katherine Liell, one of the attorneys representing Booker.  

Liell, Booker and Monroe County NAACP legal redress committee chairman Guy Loftman spoke at a news conference outside the Monroe County Courthouse Monday afternoon. 

Booker said he was not surprised by the charges. 

“Once again, there’s nothing more American than charging a Black man in his own attempted lynching,” Booker said. 

The case burst into the national spotlight last summer when Booker claimed a group of white men jumped him and threatened to hang him while he was at Lake Monroe celebrating the Fourth of July. Videos were posted to Facebook and viewed more than a million times. 

Booker said he is still living with the incident, and these charges continue that. 

“I had just moved to a new city, I was looking forward to starting a new job, to moving forward with my life and I’m dragged back into this moment,” Booker said. “For some folks, it was a year ago. For me, it’s happened every day.” 

Sean Purdy and Jerry Cox were charged in the incident last July after an investigation by the Department of Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction on state land. 

Purdy was charged with felony criminal confinement, battery and intimidation. Cox received felony charges of aiding criminal confinement and battery, along with misdemeanor charges of intimidation and battery.  

The DNR recommended charges against Booker at the time, but Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant declined to file any. She later recused herself from the case after being criticized that she was favoring Booker. 

Leerkamp took over the case as special prosecutor and agreed to a suggestion by David Hennessy, the attorney for Purdy and Cox, that the sides use restorative justice to resolve the case. 

Booker said he was inclined to participate because he is a proponent of the process. But he said in this case, it meant he had to agree to a confidentiality agreement, agree to not pursue charges against Purdy and Cox and hold a joint press conference publicly forgiving Purdy and Cox. 

That was too much to ask for Booker. 

“How many people have had to be silent and have had to sit down and not stand up for their rights?” Booker said. “I don’t care if (Leerkamp) wants to drag me back to the hanging tree herself. I am not going to back down from this, I’m not going to just let these folks go on about their lives.” 

Hennessy declined to comment on the charges being brought against Booker. 

Booker said he was trying to join friends on the beach near the Cutright Boat Ramp just off the causeway over Lake Monroe. He doesn’t deny that he crossed private land to access the beach, but the land was not marked and there were many people crossing the land. 

“Why is the Black man the only one charged with trespassing?” Booker said. 

He maintains he tried to de-escalate the situation after words were exchanged.  

“When I walked away, my responsibility was done,” Booker said. “It was his friends’ decision to run me down and beat me like an animal.” 

He doesn’t think charges should have been files against him. 

“They’ve waited a whole year that they could charge me,” Booker said. “They waited until after I filed a lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources. They waited until after I refused to publicly go on a forgiveness tour with these men to charge me. 

“This isn’t about justice, this is about making me bend to the will of folks that feel like they should be over me.” 

 

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