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2 men in alleged attack of Monroe County human rights commissioner given court date

Monroe County prosecutors have issued warrants for two people involved in an incident at the lake over July 4 weekend.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Monroe County Human Rights Commissioner Vauhxx Booker said he doesn’t want vengeance, he wants justice after allegedly being assaulted in the woods of Monroe County on July 4.

“I want us to understand that accountability, which is what I’m asking for, is not the same as punishment,” said Booker during a press conference he conducted remotely via Zoom Friday.

That’s when Booker announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Booker said he decided to get the test earlier in the week, following the July 4th incident, where a group of men allegedly attacked him in the woods. Booker ended up on the ground and pinned to a tree.

The incident was captured on cell phone cameras, posted on social media and widely shared.

On Friday, a first step toward what Booker is seeking.

Two of those men seen in the video, Sean Purdy and Jerry Edward Cox, are now facing several felony charges, among them criminal confinement, battery resulting in moderate bodily injury and intimidation. The two turned themselves in on warrants Friday. On Monday, an initial hearing was set for July 24.

Credit: Monroe County Correctional Facility
Jerry Cox and Sean Purdy

The official charging documents were filed in the Monroe Circuit Court on July 17, 2020, alleging the following criminal offenses: 

  • Sean M. Purdy is alleged to have committed Criminal Confinement, Battery Resulting in Moderate Bodily Injury; and Intimidation, a Level 6 felony. 
  • Jerry Edward Cox II is alleged to have committed Aiding, Inducing or Causing Criminal Confinement; Battery Resulting in Moderate Bodily Injury; Intimidation, and two charges of Battery. 

According to court documents, Booker ended up with a mild concussion and bald spots on his scalp, along with a scratch on his cheek and an abrasion on his knee.

“It’s important we send out a message loud and clear that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated,” said Booker.

According to those same court documents, Booker told officers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources who investigated, that Purdy threatened to lynch him. The phrase, “grab a noose,” was referenced several times in court documents related to the intimidation charge Purdy is facing.

“A neutral and detached judge reviewed the probable cause affidavit and determined that indeed there was probable cause to believe Purdy said, ‘get a noose.’ and in doing so, he did so, knowing that Vauhxx Booker would be placed in fear that the threat would be carried out,” said Booker’s attorney Katharine Liell.

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Despite charges being filed against Purdy and Cox, Liell called the charging documents white-washed.

“All the terrible racial epithets which were hurled against Vauhxx Booker, which we all saw on the tape, not a single one of those epithets is in the probable cause affidavit,” said Liell.

In an investigative report released by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Thursday, the accused men alleged Booker trespassed on private property that day. Purdy alleges Booker punched him.

The attorney for Sean Purdy issued a statement on Friday’s charges.

It said:

“We are obviously disappointed with the first-term Monroe County prosecutor’s evaluation of this case and her unfortunate decision to charge Sean Purdy while choosing not to file criminal charges against his trespassing assailant.

It appears entire portions of an exhaustive law enforcement investigation (including physical evidence and credible eyewitness testimony) were ignored in reaching that decision. Legitimate and evidence-based charging recommendations by law enforcement officers also went ignored. That is troubling.

Indiana law allows citizens to make arrests of people punching other people on private property, and to use reasonable force in doing so. Indiana also has a broad self-defense statute.

Perhaps the accuser’s public pressure campaign waged by his lawyer and publicist had more influence than we had hoped. Fortunately, the facts of July 4, 2020 have been preserved and the truth exposed to some extent.

Sean must now carry his innocence into the courtroom and fight for his exoneration. We would welcome a jury trial next week so the stigma of false and wrongful accusations can be exposed and repudiated sooner rather than later. A citizen jury won’t be clouded by politics.”

Purdy and Cox could be facing more charges. The FBI is investigating whether this was a hate crime.

Booker’s attorney said he has already talked with federal investigators.

“This is about justice and part of that is going to be about the need to be able to move on to the federal level. This stopped being just about me and starting being about the nation, the moment I chose to speak out,” said Booker.

Booker is also not remaining silent about his positive COVID-19 results. 

Liell said she contacted the lawyers for Purdy and Cox to let them know Booker had tested positive for COVID-19 and that they should get tested.

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