Alabama judge won’t dismiss charge over Confederate chair theft

Published 9:35 pm Sunday, May 8, 2022

An Alabama judge has refused to dismiss an indictment against a New Orleans tattoo artist accused in a bizarre theft in which a chair-shaped Confederate monument was taken from a cemetery and held for ransom.

Dallas County Circuit Judge Collins Pettaway Jr. refused to dismiss charges of theft and receiving stolen property against Jason Warnick, 33, in a brief decision released Thursday.

The judge rejected defense claims that there were problems with the indictment charging Warnick in the disappearance last year of a chair-shaped monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis from 200-year-old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma. Warnick also claimed there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him, but the judge refused to dismiss the charge.

Warnick was set to go on trial on Monday, but Pettaway delayed the case and scheduled a hearing for June 16.

Placed at the cemetery in 1893 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the chair vanished from its base last year in Selma, which was a Confederate arsenal during the Civil War and also is widely known as the site of voting rights demonstrations by Black activists in the 1960s.

An email claiming to be from a group called White Lies Matter claimed 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.

Authorities who arrested Warnick said the real chair was spotted at his tattoo parlor in New Orleans, where he was charged with receiving stolen property before the case was dismissed.

Warnick is innocent and had never been to Selma before he went to the city to surrender on the theft charge, the defense argues.

The chair, which the United Daughters of the Confederacy valued at $500,000, was returned to the cemetery and glued to its base.