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Bloomington man who drove into protesters pleads guilty to hate crime

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BLOOMINGTON — The man who injured two people when he drove into a crowd after a protest in Bloomington last May pleaded guilty Friday afternoon to three of his original 17 felony charges.

Marshall Blanchard, 22, was arrested after police said he drove a motorcycle into a group of people walking near the McLean County Sheriff’s Office on May 31 after a peaceful rally held at the Law and Justice Center in response to George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

Marshall R. Blanchard

Marshall R. Blanchard

In a partially negotiated agreement, Blanchard pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to give information after a motor vehicle accident and one count of hate crime.

Blanchard had been scheduled to go to trial Monday morning. This is the third time his trial date was vacated since his arrest.

Fourteen charges were dismissed in the plea deal, including four counts of aggravated battery; four counts of hate crime within 1,000 feet of a school; three additional counts of hate crime; one count of aggravated assault; and two misdemeanor counts of battery.

When Blanchard was initially charged, First Assistant State’s Attorney Brad Rigdon said several witnesses reported seeing the Bloomington man “driving at a high rate of speed and angling his motorcycle toward protesters in an attempt to strike the protesters with the motorcycle.”

One woman was hospitalized with abdominal wounds. A man sought treatment for a swollen arm.

About 1,000 people had gathered for the rally on the lawn of the Law and Justice Center, followed by a march that circled downtown in protest of Floyd’s death. Derek Chauvin was found guilty this week of murder and manslaughter for pinning Floyd to the ground with a knee to the man’s neck for 9 ½ minutes.

Emergency workers had blocked the road for the safety of those protesting in downtown on May 31, but a Bloomington police officer reported seeing a motorcyclist drive past his squad car and into the crowd.

Apr.20 -- Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing George Floyd on May 25. Chauvin will be held with no bail and sentenced in eight weeks. Adam Taylor of Bloomberg Government reports.

Three traffic offenses were also dismissed as part of the deal. They were failure to obey an officer, improper use of evidence of registration or certificate of title, and operating an uninsured motor vehicle.

Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Lawson agreed to limit the state’s recommendation for sentencing to seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. All sentences for the three charges will run concurrently, according to the plea agreement.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for July 2.

Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.


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