A 20-year-old Ohio man pleaded not guilty to battery Thursday after he allegedly sucker punched a Trump supporter at an anti-illegal immigration rally in Laguna Beach on Sunday, officials said.
Richard Losey was charged with one misdemeanor count of battery, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.
Laguna Beach police arrested Losey on suspicion of battery with a hate crime enhancement, but prosecutors determined "there is not enough evidence" to charge him with the enhancement.
"Political motivation is not an area covered under hate crimes in the penal code," Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for the district attorney, said in a statement.
Police said R.C. Maxwell was "peacefully" speaking with a group of people at Main Beach Park when the counter-protester punched him.
Maxwell, a black Trump supporter, told The Times he went to speak with counter-protesters "trying to find commonalities" and was explaining his views when he was attacked. He said he was also pepper-sprayed and choked.
The confrontation was captured on video that was posted to social media.
In the video, Maxwell is surrounded by a crowd of counter-protesters, some with bandanas covering their faces.
"There is a problem with illegal immigration; I speak out against that. That doesn't make me a Nazi," Maxwell says.
"You're a traitor!" someone shouts over him.
"People want you in chains, dude," another voice says.
"If you want to keep the peace, you should leave," someone says.
Shortly after, Maxwell is knocked to the ground.
Police said Losey fled before officers arrived.
The "America First!" rally was billed as a vigil for victims of crimes committed by immigrants in the U.S. illegally. A police spokesman estimated the crowd of protesters and counter-protesters grew to about 2,500, with only a few dozen there for the anti-illegal immigration rally.
The two sides were separated by the boardwalk and a team of police officers in riot gear and on horseback.
The rally was organized in the wake of violent clashes that broke out at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., where one woman was killed and more than a dozen were injured when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters.
"In the aftermath of Charlottesville, people are emboldened to take a stand for what they deem as xenophobic or racist ideologies, but I think it's gone too far," Maxwell said. "Now it's resulting in violence — no one on the left is condemning this."
He said he alerted authorities that night and reported the attack to Laguna Beach police the next day. Police identified the suspect as Losey, of Lancaster, Ohio.
Detectives arrested Losey on Tuesday as he was trying to buy a bus pass to Ohio in what they believe was an attempt to "flee the state to avoid criminal prosecution," police said.
Anyone with any information about the incident is asked to call the Laguna Beach police at (949) 497-0701.
Aug. 24, 5:10 p.m.: This article was updated with charging information from the Orange County district attorney's office.