Crime & Courts

He was arrested after vandalizing his own car, and police unhappy he got away with it, they say

Michael David Anastasion draws messages on his car in Five Points in January before he was arrested by a Columbia police officer.
Michael David Anastasion draws messages on his car in Five Points in January before he was arrested by a Columbia police officer.

The Columbia man who was arrested in January after defacing his own car in Five Points was found not guilty of his charges.

Michael David Anastasion, 42, was charged with public disorderly conduct Jan. 13, according to the Columbia Police Department.

The incident occurred just before 1:30 a.m. on Harden Street in Five Points, when Columbia police said Anastasion appeared to be “grossly intoxicated” when he vandalized his own vehicle, writing politically-related obscenities all over the car.

A large crowd gathered as Anastasion defaced his Mercedes-Benz with profanities criticizing “your privilege,” “your education,” Republicans, President Donald Trump and “the U.S.A.”

“Black Lives Matter” also was written on the passenger-side front door.

Anastasion was unsteady on his feet and was shouting and cursing, the police said after arresting and charging the Columbia artist. When he was in handcuffs, police said Anastasion refused to comply with police commands and fell to the ground, injuring his knees.

On April 4, a judge found Anastasion not guilty of public disorderly conduct, free-times.com reported. Anastasion's attorney, Neal Lourie, made a motion after the Columbia Police Department failed to turn over evidence pertaining to the charge.

"I would not have been arrested if I wrote 'USA USA, Go Gamecocks,'" Anastasion told wach.com.

Anastasion might have felt vindicated, but Columbia Chief of Police Skip Holbrook had a different response.

"Based upon my review of this matter, I believe we had sufficient probable cause to bring a criminal charge against the subject in this case, although I admit the case was not properly handled in municipal court," Holbrook said in message to The State. "Whenever a highly respected and experienced lawyer makes a technical legal motion against a young unrepresented police officer, the people of Columbia are at a distinct disadvantage."

Holbrook said he is going to take steps to attempt to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Among them, Holbrook wants Columbia's prosecutors to be more involved during non-jury motions, so that an officer without courtroom experience isn't in a similar situation. Another way Holbrook will try to remedy that situation is by having experienced "Command Staff" officers attend non-jury days of court.

"This case is an example of our need to level the playing field in municipal court," Holbrook said.

Anastasion said he plans to sue the police department for violating his First Amendment rights and for unlawful arrest, free-times.com reported. He said that his actions were a spontaneous art protest meant to speak out against his own white privilege and white privilege broadly.

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