A sociology professor from Nebraska who was accused of spraying fake blood on the steps of a National Rifle Association lobbyist's home in January was convicted Monday of misdemeanor destruction of property.
Patricia Hill, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty member, was ordered to pay a $500 fine and stay away from lobbyist Chris Cox after she vandalized his home in Alexandria, Va.
She already had a temporary restraining order that prohibits her from going near Cox’s wife’s business or the NRA offices in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
The court also issued Hill a warrant for an additional vandalism charge regarding a similar incident in October.
Wyatt Delaney, a security guard who testified in court, said he recognized the professor from a similar incident last year. He described the spray she used on Cox’s home as a “red, gel-like substance.”
“The motive here is that Mr. Cox works for the NRA; she doesn’t like that. That’s fine. She can exercise her First Amendment right,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Maana Parcham said, according to the Washington Post, adding that Hill crossed a line when she decided to vandalize the home.
The prosecutor also said Hill asked the officer who arrested her how the property was damaged and if the Cox family tried to clean the steps.
“Some sort of blood-like substance was sprayed all over our front steps."
“She knew what she had done,” Parcham said, adding that it doesn’t matter if the substance can be removed because it still “defaced the property.”
The incident reportedly upset the Cox family. Chris Cox testified that his two young kids were at home during the incident.
“Some sort of blood-like substance was sprayed all over our front steps,” he said.
An attorney representing the Cox family praised the authorities for prosecuting Hill.
“The Cox family is grateful to the Commonwealth Attorney’s office and the Alexandria Police Department for their role in holding Ms. Hill accountable,” the statement read, according to the Post.
But Hill plans to appeal the ruling, with her attorney Jon Bourdon saying the security guard could not have identified the professor as the criminal.
“I think the evidence shows that there is certainly reasonable doubt as to who committed this offense,” the attorney said. He suggested in court that the real culprit could be one of the two women who recently protested outside the lobbyist’s home.
Despite the prosecution, anti-gun activists have come out in support of the professor. Melody Vaccaro, vice president of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, told the Post that Cox was a hypocrite for trying to prosecute and demand a protective order against Hill while continuing to lobby for open carry laws in the U.S.
“We think this is the NRA using the criminal justice system to rain terror on regular people,” Vaccaro said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.