SELMA, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama prosecutor said Wednesday that he had no plans to dismiss an indictment in an unusual ransom plot involving a stolen Confederate monument, despite a decision by prosecutors in Louisiana to drop related charges there.
District Attorney Michael Jackson said he was moving ahead with the case against Jason Warnick, who was charged earlier this year with the theft of a chair-shaped memorial that was taken from a cemetery in Selma. Records show an additional charge of receiving stolen property was added against Warnick in August.
Louisiana prosecutors dropped a charge of possession of stolen property against Warnick, 32, and two others, girlfriend Kathryn Diionno, 24, and Stanley Pate, 35. Court records do not give a reason for the decision.
Michael Kennedy, a lawyer for Warnick, said his client is innocent and the Alabama case should be dismissed, too.
“As we have contended from the outset, our clients were in no way involved in any theft and certainly were not aware if they were in possession of any stolen item,” he said in an email.
Placed in the cemetery about 130 years ago by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the monument honors Confederate President Jefferson Davis. It vanished last spring, and news outlets then began receiving emails with an unusual ransom demand.
A message claiming to be from a group called White Lies Matter took responsibility and said the chair would be returned only if the United Daughters of the Confederacy agreed to display a banner at its Virginia headquarters bearing a quote from a Black Liberation Army activist. The email also included images of a fake chair with a hole cut in the seat like a toilet and a man dressed in Confederate garb.
But New Orleans police said they found the real chair undamaged in early April and arrested Warnick and Diionno, who have a tattoo shop. Pate was arrested days later.
The chair has since been returned to Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, where it was secured to its based with thick adhesive.
Jackson, the Alabama prosecutor, said he planned to speak with Louisiana authorities about their decision to drop charges there.