By Tim Gardner
After several months’ delay from a backlog of court cases being heard due to the coronavirus pandemic, Jared Benjamin Lafer, of 147 Rockdale Road, of Bakersville in Mitchell County, appeared in court May 27 for an incident that happened on September 13, 2020.
Lafer has been accused of a hit-and-run during a Black Lives Matter protest in Johnson City, TN. He is alleged to have hit Jonathan Bowers with his vehicle causing multiple injuries to Bowers.
During this court proceeding Bowers said Lafer could have gone in a different direction instead of hitting him. Lafer reportedly was in the region for a dinner date with relatives when he drove up upon a group of Black Lives Matter protestors. Lafer apparently hit Bowers with his SUV when he turned right toward the highway.
Bowers said Lafer kept going and the vehicle “sucked” him under the tires. Bowers maintained that he was at the protest to walk his dog and take photographs. But Lafer’s lead attorney, Mac Meade, indicated that Bowers’ comments concerning his involvement with the protest have not been consistent.
Meade contends that his client feared for his safety and the safety of his family which included three children under the age of six who were in his vehicle at the time of the protest.
Later in the hearing after a recess, Major Larry Denny of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department testified that he saw eyewitness Hannah Reid and Elijah Gilmer, another witness who had not yet testified, leave the courtroom together and confer, before returning back to the courtroom.
Witnesses in the case took oaths to not speak of the case outside of court.
Presiding Judge Janet Hardin gave Reid and Gilmer a chance to speak about the incident and both declined. Gilmer stated that he was “not clear,” so he would not answer something he isn’t sure about. Reid said she preferred to remain silent.
Meade told WJHL Television News of Johnson City that Denny’s testimony suggests Lafer may not be getting a “fair and just criminal process.”
Judge Hardin reduced Lafer’s charge from aggravated assault to reckless aggravated assault after hearing Bowers’ testimony, dropping the charge from a Class C to a Class D felony.
Meade and co-counsel Chris Rogers said they pleased with Judge Hardin’s decision to reduce the charge against Lafer and indicated they will consider potential contempt cases against the two witnesses who allegedly conferred during court recess.
Lafer’s case will move on to a grand jury.
He remains free on bond.
After being charged last fall, Lafer, then age 27, surrendered himself to law enforcement authorities and was released after posting a $20,000 bond.