Charleston, South Carolina — Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced today that Kelsey Donnel Jackson, 28, of Edisto Island, was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to maliciously damaging a police vehicle by means of fire during violent and destructive riots in downtown Charleston on May 30, 2020.
Evidence presented in court showed that, while traveling to the protests, Jackson streamed a video of himself on Facebook live in which he held a handgun, racked the slide on the handgun, and pointed the handgun at the screen of his phone. While holding the handgun on multiple occasions, Jackson is heard on the livestream making the following statements: “F*ck the police,” “let a cop run up and get done up,” “we’re liable to f*ck the police up right now,” and “you about to get hit” when he thought he was being pulled over by a police officer.
Evidence presented to the court further showed that Jackson travelled throughout the city, vandalizing businesses and public property, assaulting two civilians, and attempting to light a Charleston Police cruiser on fire.
Jackson is the third of six defendants to be sentenced on federal charges stemming from participation of actions including arson, inciting riots, and other civil disorder in Columbia and Charleston on May 30 and 31, 2020.
“While the United States Attorney’s Office will always protect the First Amendment rights of South Carolinians, we will not allow violence and destruction to go unpunished,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart. “We stand committed with our local, state and federal partners to protect the citizens of South Carolina, and we commend the tremendous effort made by detectives and crime analysts from the Charleston Police Department to not only identify those responsible for the violence and destruction last summer but also to document evidence and quickly apprehend them. As was expressed in court, today’s sentencing will hopefully be a deterrent for violent agitators committing crimes like this in the future.”
“The Charleston Police Department once again applauds the successful resolution of this criminal case and the ongoing support displayed by the United States Attorney’s Office regarding this incident,” said Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds. “While the Charleston Police Department will always support our citizen’s right to peaceful protest, we will never condone violent or destructive acts that endanger our citizens or damage property. More work remains to be accomplished as we continue investigating and prosecuting those violent offenders responsible for the significant destruction of property, assault on our citizens and attack on our officers. We will not rest until justice is accomplished for all impacted by those criminal acts.”
United States District Judge Richard M. Gergel sentenced Jackson to 24 months imprisonment to be followed by 36 months of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
The case was investigated by the FBI, ATF, Charleston Police Department, and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Numerous other local police departments and Solicitors’ Offices across the state have also assisted in the investigations of civil unrest in May 2020.
Assistant United States Attorneys Emily Limehouse and Nathan Williams prosecuted the case.