The cases of two individuals charged with defacing the Unsung Founders Memorial at UNC-Chapel Hill are being continued into the summer.

Nancy Rushton McCorkle, 50, of Newberry, SC, who faces misdemeanor charges for ethnic intimidation, injury to real property and possession of stolen goods, appeared in Orange County court on Thursday. Her new court date is June 27. Ryan Barnett, 31, of Sanford, who is charged with ethnic intimidation, urination in a public place, two counts of injury to real property and possession of stolen goods, appeared in court on Monday. His next court date is July 8.

After her appearance in court on Thursday, McCorkle predicted in a Facebook Live stream that the district attorney will drop charges against her and Barnett.

“I spoke to my public defender, and he says that they still haven’t produced any evidence whatsoever that we did these things,” McCorkle said in the video. “There’s no evidence. There’s no police reports, no evidence whatsoever. He told me to go home. My court date again is June the 27th. He said that I don’t even have to come back, that these are unusual charges, and unusual circumstances, and they’re going to be very easily thrown out because there’s no evidence.”

Assistant District Attorney Billy Massengale told Triad City Beat on Monday that the discovery process, in which the prosecution shares evidence with the defense, had not yet gotten underway.

UNC Police provided two incident reports to TCB that match the violations for which McCorkle and Barnett are charged.

One incident report notes “vandalism” and “property damage” at 1 McCorkle Place, where the Unsung Founders Memorial is located and the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam was formerly located, noting that the damage was discovered at 1:41 a.m. on March 31.

In a public message to the campus community, interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote that at 1:30 a.m. that day, “two individuals defaced the Unsung Founders Memorial, writing racist and other deplorable language on it…. In addition, university police discovered that an installation outside Hanes Art Center was also vandalized with hateful language and racial slurs today.”

Maya Little and Lindsay Ayling, two graduate students who have been active in the campaign to remove Silent Sam, have said on Twitter that they learned through a faculty member and a lawyer that their names were specifically mentioned in the graffiti.

The university has declined to release the specific language used in the graffiti.

“Specific information on the nature of the graffiti is not included in the public portion of the report as that relates to the investigation,” Randy Young, a spokesperson for the UNC Police, said in an email to TCB on Friday.

McCorkle, who is one of the administrators of the Facebook page of the group Heirs to the Confederacy, appears to have been identified as a suspect early in the investigation.

“University police are in the process of obtaining a warrant for the arrest of one of the individuals who is known to be affiliated with the Heirs to the Confederacy and was identified on surveillance tape,” Guskiwiecz wrote in his March 31 message to the campus community. “University police are reviewing the tape to identify the other person involved.”

 

A second report on file with UNC Police details an alleged larceny at the UNC System office “by raising Confederate flag on flagpole, after removing the UNC System flag.” The violation was discovered at 2:28 p.m. on March 31, according to the report.

The Facebook profiles of three individuals involved in pro-Confederate activism erupted with celebratory posts on the morning of March 31. McCorkle posted a photograph of the Confederate flag alongside the North Carolina state flag at a location that appears to the UNC System office at 8:05 a.m.

Steven Triplett, a Guilford County resident who has protested the removal of Confederate monuments alongside McCorkle in Chapel Hill and Winston-Salem, posted a Facebook update at 9:04 a.m., stating, “Antifa and commies, be surprised about our Confederate flag is risen at UNC campus in Chapel Hill this morning.”

And Joshua Pennington, who was present for the toppling of Silent Sam in August 2018, wrote cryptically about a group of antiracists who demonstrated their support of Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour on March 31: “Well, let’s just say that they were surprised with something from campus that go replaced with a battle flag.”

A photographer, Tony Crider, tweeted a photo of McCorkle and Barnett holding a UNC System flag outside the Linda Sarsour event that took place in Hillsborough on March 31. He wrote that he asked them why they had the flag, and McCorkle responded, “Confederates own this town.” Jason Tyson, a spokesperson for the UNC System, said the flag is valued at $603.72.

McCorkle and Barnett were arrested on April 8 and charged with misdemeanors in connection with the vandalism at McCorkle Place and the flag swap at the UNC System building.

“All these people going around on the internet trash-talking me, calling me a thief because of that UNC banner, well those people can certainly kiss my ass — kiss my rebel ass,” McCorkle said in her Facebook Live stream on Thursday. “’Cause I said I wasn’t guilty, and that’s the truth.”

Despite their pending charges, McCorkle and Barnett appeared at a pro-Confederate monument in Chapel Hill, alongside members of the Virginia Task Force 3% Dixie Defenders, on May 4.

On Monday after his hearing, Barnett said to TCB in a Facebook message: “Antifa has a reign of terror that is about to end in Chapel Hill.” Asked to elaborate, he responded, “Wait and see.”

 

An antiracist counter-protester holds a sign mocking Nancy Rushton McCorkle and Ryan Barnett in Chapel Hill on May 4. (photo by Jordan Green)

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