By ERICA JACKSON
Last Saturday evening, UMW alumnus Andrew Stone left his Fredericksburg apartment on a mission: to confront members of the University’s College Republicans about their beliefs concerning the Iraqi War. With military brochures in hand and a list of names and addresses in his pocket, the 2006 grad was only on his second stop when the discussion erupted into a fistfight and he was arrested.
Stone, 23, was charged with three counts of assault and battery, a class 1 misdemeanor. This was his first arrest and he was released on a personal recognizance bond later that night. His arraignment is scheduled for March 1 and he plans to seek the services of a public defender.
According to Stone, who works as a role-player for the Capital police, his visit was politically motivated but his intentions were not violent.
“I figured if these people are College Republicans and they support the war in Iraq, then they should be fighting in it,” Stone said. “My main focus was not to have a discussion about the war; it was to have a discussion as to the moral character of the College Republicans.”
Police could not be reached for comment, but according to the report, based on interviews with the students who said they were assaulted, Stone entered the house on Marye Street posing as a military recruiter and immediately began questioning junior Reed Pannell, an inactive member of the College Republicans, about his political beliefs. Stone and Pannell had never met before the incident.
Stone quickly grew agitated and Pannell and his two roommates asked him to leave. When he refused, Pannell’s roommate Matt Long, a junior, pushed Stone toward the door. Stone reacted by punching Long in the face and continued to strike out until police arrived.
Stone and Pannell both said that although the police report alleged that Stone struck all three of the roommates, he only actually hit Long, although Long and Pannell were involved in the Although Stone admitted to the general accuracy of the account, he emphasized that he was invited into the house. He also insisted that he did not start the fight, noting that he was pushed first.
“I did not initiate any physical contact,” Stone said. “I was going there to make a political discussion. I wanted to try to recruit them into the military.”
Pannell, however, believes that Stone’s intentions were more violent.
“He went out on a mission that day,” Pannell said. “He was pitching for a fight. He wanted to hit somebody who didn’t believe what he did.”
According to Pannell, sometime during the altercation Stone dropped a list containing the names of members of the College Republicans along with their addresses, which Pannell turned into the police.
Pannell speculated that Stone had gotten the names from a Facebook group.
Senior Andrew T. Lamar, former president of the College Republicans, was the first person on Stone’s list.
“He immediately started asking me if I was a Republican and supported the war, why was I not in Iraq right now,” Lamar said, noting that he is asked similar questions regularly. “Right away when he said that I realized he was just someone who was angry who wanted to come verbalize his opinion to me at my house.”
Lamar quickly excused himself and closed the door, after which he said Stone yelled obscenities and left.
“He was very forceful and you could tell that he was very angry,” Lamar said. “I didn’t give him the time… to be violent.”
Both Lamar and Pannell pointed out that this is not the first time Stone had used Facebook as a political tool; there are several other incidents in which he used the forum to express his anti-Republican sentiments.
On Dec. 26, Stone posted on the “wall” of UMW alumnus Colin Jones, a friend of Pannell who is also listed as a Republican on Facebook.
“Colin, I tolerate you, but most of your frat-like phony friends I find unbearable and worthy of death,” the post reads. “Also if you vote in the next election or ever have kids I will eliminate you. I do this for the next generation.”
However, Stone insists that the message was intended as a joke, and Jones took it as such.
“I had no idea [the residents of Marye Street] were friends with Colin until after my arrest, and I never intended to physically threaten any individual with the comments,” Stone said.
Jones, who graduated in 2006, is currently in officer’s training school at the Marine Corps Base Quantico and could not be reached for comment.
Stone also started a Facebook group called “Republicans are Cowards,” which had 12 members before the group was deleted on Tuesday. In the description of the group, Stone wrote:
“Face it, the GOP is the party of the cowardly. And all f***ing cowards will f***ing hang.”
Stone would not directly admit to his involvement in the group, noting that it is no longer active.
“If I wrote that then I certainly shouldn’t have,” Stone said. “Sometimes I say things without thinking as much as I should about how people will react to them.”
Lamar, who investigated Stone’s Facebook activity after the incident at his house, expressed shock at the findings.
“He’s made several references to what I would consider death threats,” Lamar said. “It’s really extreme. It’s scary to think that people have that way of expressing themselves and that view of the world.”
As he had not spoken to a lawyer, Stone was unsure of what to expect from the charges, but the Code of Virginia states that class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500.
“I don’t care if he goes to jail,” Long said. “I just hope he gets some sort of help. If he wants to make a difference politically, that’s fine, but going door to door and berating people… that’s just so completely wrong.”
Stone admitted that he regretted the entire incident.
“In the future, I plan to be more careful what I write on Facebook, as there are a lot of sensitive people out there,” Stone said. “Also, if you’re going to try to encourage Republicans to sign up for an elective war that they pressed hard to start, it’s probably better to send them recruitment pamphlets in the mail.”