Jason Kessler pleads guilty to assault charge

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- The man who spearheaded the movement to remove Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy from office pleaded guilty to an assault charge.

Jason Kessler pleaded guilty in Charlottesville Circuit Court on Thursday morning. Kessler raised his right hand and admitted to punching James Taylor, a Charlottesville man, in the face on the Downtown Mall back in January.

While the court hearing was all of about ten minutes, outside the courtroom, both had very different stories to tell.

"I'll admit that what I did was not legal," said Kessler. "I was having a bad day. I've never done anything like this before and it will never happen again."

Kessler went on to say, "Man to man, yell in a man's face and expect to get punched in the face."

The assault happened while Kessler was collecting signatures for his petition to remove Bellamy from the Charlottesville City Council. While they do agree the assault happened, their accounts differ.

"He and his buddy came over, they scribbled on my petition and vandalized it," said Kessler. "James didn't want to have a conversation with me, he yelled you're a....and he called me a name. I felt threatened and I hit him to get him away from me."

On the other hand, Taylor says he was simply killing time on the mall with his dog and a cup of coffee.

"He handed me his clipboard so I could read it and I handed it back to him," said Taylor. "I said what I said to him and he didn't like it."

Taylor and Kessler both say curse words were exchanged before Kessler punched Taylor in the face, busting his lip.

"I tried to apologize to him, but he ran to the cops," said Kessler. "He used the state government to try and force penalty on me."

"The kind of fear, hate, and aggressive manner that it was being conducted by him and I called him out on it," said Taylor. "So he hit me."

Both also agree that Taylor was the one to approach Kessler first and Kessler says he was being harassed.

"People like James have been using the liberal nature of this city to really mess with me," said Kessler.

"I just don't think you go after people, the way he's been going after people and cause disruption," said Taylor. "I think if he spent as much energy trying to come up with a better idea, he could probably do so. He's a smart guy."

Previously in court, Kessler had an assault charge out against Taylor saying Taylor punched him in the face, but those charges were dropped in March.

When asked about the dropped charges and his accusations of assault against Taylor, Kessler walked away.

"When the video comes out, it will tell a different story," said Taylor. "I was literally holding a cup of coffee."

The video Taylor is referencing is the reason the court dropped the charge against Taylor and decided to move forward with the assault charge on Kessler.

CBS19 is working to get the footage of the incident.

Kessler is expected to appear in court again April 27 at 9 a.m. for sentencing.

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