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MA man charged with attacking 82-year-old military vet, Trump supporter deemed ‘not dangerous’

Judge's gavel. (Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/U.S. Air Force)

A Fall River District Court judge deemed the man accused of assaulting an elderly Trump supporter not dangerous during a hearing on Thursday, but ordered that he not participate in any online political activity and to stay away from the alleged victim and witnesses in the case.

Aidan Courtright, 27, who lives in Fall River and is formerly from Pembroke, still faces serious charges of committing a civil rights violation with injury; assault and battery on a person over 60 years old; vandalizing property; and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person over 60 years old.

A plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf during an arraignment on Wednesday in District Court.

Courtright is accused of stopping his car where the elderly victim stood holding a Trump sign and wearing a MAGA hat on the rotary near North Main Street and Airport Road early Tuesday, then pushing the man to the ground and kicking him in the ribs and back. He reportedly then ripped the elderly man’s Trump sign and threw it to the ground.

The 82-year-old military veteran is known in the city for carrying his sign in that area and in front of One Government Center on occasion.

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He was taken to Charlton Hospital for observation with reportedly having visible bruising on his back. He told police he believed he had been target for his political beliefs.

Witnesses were able to give police a description of the assailant, and Courtright turned himself in to police Tuesday night.

During Thursday’s dangerousness hearing, a Bristol County assistant prosecutor during the telephone conference hearing said the victim was the target of a political hate crime.

“He’s an 82-year-old man standing in a rotary holding a political sign and he’s not bothering anyone. I’m suggesting it was a sign that the defendant doesn’t agree with,” said Assistant District Attorney Kyle McPherson.

But Courtright’s defense attorney, Marc Roberts, had submitted character witness statements that described his client as a “peaceful and gentle son” who bought Valentine’s Day candy for his hospital co-workers, is a trained clinician who worked with the mentally disabled, and is a trained de-escalation expert at Pembroke Hospital.

Roberts said Courtright has no prior criminal record and that the case does not reach the burden to declare Courtright dangerous and that he was not a risk.

While acknowledging the allegations against Courtright were serious, he said some of the accounts of the incident were “exaggerated” and there was no physical evidence in the police account that the victim was kicked repeatedly in the ribs.

He called the incident an “aberration” on Courtright’s part.

Judge Franco Gobourne ruled that the Commonwealth had not met its burden that Courtright was a danger, and that while he was prohibited from participating in any online political communication, he would be allowed to participate in public and peaceful demonstration.

After the hearing, District Attorney Thomas Quinn III released this statement:

“The defendant is accused of engaging in outrageous and lawless violence against an 82-year-old man who was just holding a political sign. This type of violence against anyone, especially an 82-year-old veteran, is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

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© 2020 The Herald News