A Nebraska woman was found guilty Monday of spraying fake blood on the steps of the Alexandria, Virginia, home of National Rifle Association lobbyist Chris Cox in January.
Patricia Hill, a faculty member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was ordered to pay a $500 fine and stay 500 feet away from the Cox family home.
“The motive here is that Mr. Cox works for the NRA; she doesn’t like that. That’s fine. She can exercise her First Amendment right,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Maana Parcham said in Alexandria General District Court Monday.
But the prosecutor said Hill crossed the line into a criminal act by committing vandalism, adding the incident distressed Cox’s family.
Cox testified that his two young children were home at the time. He said he was called home by the police.
“Some sort of blood-like substance was sprayed all over our front steps,” he said.
Judge Donald Haddock Jr. found Hill guilty of misdemeanor destruction of property in a bench trial.
The incident occurred on the evening of Jan. 11. A private security guard working for Cox testified he saw Hill walk by first in a dark coat and hat, then later in exercise gear.
Surveillance video caught Hill spraying the stairs, according to the testimony of the guard, Wyatt Delaney. He said he recognized the woman from a photograph taken during a similar incident in October.
Wyatt described the spray as a “red, gel-like substance.”
Officer Ashley Tremble testified that after an arrest was made, Hill asked how the property was damaged and whether the owners had tried to clean the steps.
“She knew what she had done,” Parcham said.
Even if the substance was easily removed, the prosecutor argued, “it defaced the property.”
Hill plans to appeal, attorney Jon Bourdon said. It was dark and raining that night, and he maintained Delaney could not have reliably identified Hill as the culprit.
“I think the evidence shows that there is certainly reasonable doubt as to who committed this offense,” Bourdon said.
In court, he suggested the vandal could have been one of two women who protested outside the Cox home in April.
Cox testified he had taken his family out of the house during that protest and would not recognize either woman.
The protests and vandalism are part of a rise in more aggressive anti-gun activism across the country, as advocates become frustrated with a lack of legislative progress.
The lobbyist is also asking for a protective order against Hill.
“There’s a credible and reasonable fear for safety of the family,” attorney Elizabeth Locke said in court.
Haddock, the judge, imposed a temporary protective order until the civil case can be heard in August.
Melody Vaccaro, vice president of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, came to support Hill. She said Cox was a hypocrite for demanding prosecution and a protective order over fake blood while lobbying for open carrying of deadly weapons across the country.
“We think this is the NRA using the criminal justice system to reign terror on regular people,” Vaccaro said.