JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Washington County, Tenn. grand jury dismissed the case that accused Jared Benjamin Lafer, 27, Bakersville, of hitting a Black Lives Matter protester with his car last September.
Lafer’s attorney, Mac Meade, told News Channel 11 Monday that a No True Bill was issued by the Grand Jury, meaning no charges were filed against Lafer.
“We always had great confidence that once we had a trial on the matter, that the jury would return a, ‘not guilty,’ for Mr. Lafer in his situation and today — thanks to the hard work of the staff and the attorneys at Meade Law Group — we’ve been able to keep the charges from being filed in the first place,” Meade said. “Having a no true bill issued by the grand jury is a big deal, and it’s a rare deal. It doesn’t happen by accident.”
Meade added that he was pleased with the outcome of the morning’s court proceeding. News Channel 11 spoke with Lafer after the court session, who said he maintained his innocence throughout the case.
“I just want to thank god and everybody else who supported me,” he said. “I knew from day one that I was not guilty, and it took the grand jury — 12 people — to prove that as well.”
Meade said Monday the firm filed expungement paperwork.
“So, ideally within a few weeks’ time, Mr. Lafer can say that he’s never been charged with or convicted of any crime,” Meade said.
The incident happened in Johnson City amid a string of regional civil rights protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of law enforcement officers.
A previous court session revealed the protester, Johnathon Bowers, had sustained two broken legs, a concussion and a brain bleed from the hit-and-run.
Lafer turned himself in to police, and his aggravated assault charge was later reduced to a reckless aggravated assault in a May court session.
Reaction to charges being dropped
Victoria Hewlett witnessed the incident between Bowers and Lafer in 2020, which she filmed from her vehicle in Downtown Johnson City.
Hewlett said the outcome of the morning’s court proceedings was “outrageous.”
“That guy could have killed him easily,” she said. “And how can that be self-defense when he’s the one in a car, which has the power to kill another human being there? I don’t understand it; it’s totally outrageous.
“I just found out about this an hour ago that all charges were ultimately dropped and unfortunately, I’m not as surprised as I wish I was, but this is just outrageous. To me, there’s so many things wrong with this, and it sets a terrible precedent for the future of hate crimes.”
She said she saw Lafer drive over Bowers and was shocked by the incident.
“It just highlights the lack of justice in the justice system that happens so much, and that’s why people are out protesting because of the lack of justice in the justice system, so it just highlights the very reason people were out there in the first place — it’s outrageous,” Hewlett said.