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Prosecutor Tosses Charges Against Masked Woman Arrested On Lobby Day

Woman wearing face mask takes selfie
Mikaela Beschler documented her arrest on Instagram. (Screenshot: Mikaela Beschler/Instagram)

Richmond’s top prosecutor has dropped the charges against a woman who was arrested last month for having her face covered during a gun rally that drew thousands of armed protesters.

Mikaela Beschler, 21, was arrested in downtown Richmond on January 20, as more than 20,000 people rallied against proposed gun control bills. Hundreds of attendees wore scarves and bandanas over their faces. In Virginia, it’s illegal to wear a mask or a hood with the intent to conceal your identity.

But Beschler was the only person who was arrested that day for violating the law.  

This week, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin tossed the charge. McEachin said in a statement, “Given the weather conditions, Ms. Beschler’s lack of intent to hide her identity, and her remorse for her actions, we dismissed the charge.”

The temperatures dipped near freezing the day of the incident.

McEachin said the arresting officer advised Beshcler on two separate occasions that she could be charged if she continued to hide her face and he arrested her after seeing her a third time.

Covering your face with intent to conceal your identity is a Class 6 felony in Virginia. Beschler’s attorney, Mackenzie Clements, said her client is grateful for the dismissal.

“She is also grateful that the Richmond Police Department treated her with such dignity and respect throughout the arrest process,” Clements said.

Clements said, however, she is still at a loss for why her client was the only person arrested that day for this offense.

“While we appreciate the officer’s decorum in affectuating that arrest, I still challenge the fact that she never should have been arrested in the first place.”

Clements said the statute lends itself to discriminatory enforcement. Had the case moved forward, Clements said she planned to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

Gene Lepley, a spokesperson for Richmond Police Department said in a statement, “We are pleased her attorney recognized our professionalism.”

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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