A University of California, Riverside student who allegedly grabbed a classmate’s MAGA hat from his head could face up to one year in jail for misdemeanor grand theft. In a cell phone video that went viral, MAGA hat owner and College Republican member Matthew Vitale repeatedly asked for the return of his property from the female student who allegedly took it.
Vitale filed a complaint after the September 27 incident, and the Riverside County District Attorney’s office is apparently pursuing the case. The suspect is due in court on March 1.
According to Campus Reform, grand theft under the California penal code applies when the property is taken directly off of the owner regardless of the value of the property. “Make America Great Again” was one of President Trump’s 2016 campaign catchphrases.
The nine-minute NSFW video (for language) also depicts how calm college administrators in the Student Life Department, to their credit, try to mediate the situation, during which the female student implies that the MAGA hat should be banned on campus and that it represents genocide.
The student also seems to justify taking the hat because to her, it represents genocide. She also, at one point, equates freedom of speech with genocide and also seems to consider the MAGA hat a form of microagression against people of color on the UC Riverside campus, which is located in the greater Los Angeles area.
When she also mentions that most of the groups on campus are led by students of color and implies that they are likely to be offended by the MAGA hat, Vitale responded that he is half Nicaraguan, and again, just wants his hat returned. The woman seemed to suggest that he is benefiting from white privilege anyway. She also seems dismissive of private property rights and indicated that she’d like to burn the MAGA hat. At another point, she seems to declare that “I f*****g hate this country.”
A senior economics major, Vitale finally gets his hat back as the expletive-filled exposition by the female student winds down. At the end of the video, campus cops show up in the office where the confrontation is taking place, at least initially preventing her from leaving.
“I’m very pleased that the DA decided to charge her, especially because I am skeptical that UCR student conduct did anything. I will be following up with the student conduct office to determine if anything was done,” Vitale told The College Fix. He also expressed appreciation that campus police took the matter seriously and conducted a professional investigation.
About the pending charges, Vitale explained to Fox News his thought process, with the broader implications beyond the return of a $25 ball cap.
“I’m not doing this to be punitive or see her rot in jail. I want people my age to realize that things like this aren’t tolerated in America. We just want to have our rights guaranteed and that’s what it’s all about.”
Prompted by the UC Riverside incident, Vitale and other pro-Trump College Republicans now “proudly” wear their MAGA gear on what they call “MAGA Mondays.”
George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley observed that prison time is unlikely in this scenario, which he claims is another example of the hostility toward free speech currently prevailing on college campuses.
“As a first offense, jail is rare as opposed to informal probation for up to three years. Nevertheless, it is surprising to see a formal charge over a $25 hat. Yet, the video has gone viral and prosecutors may have felt the need to deter such violent and intolerant conduct on campuses. There of course remains the question of what disciplinary action has been taken by the University of California. The UC system has a rather poor record on criminal acts committed against conservative students or protesters.”
Although it no longer appears to be available on Facebook, another video apparently exists or existed that has a bearing on the encounter, TruthRevolt noted. “Helping the case against [the suspect] was her posting of an incriminating video to her Facebook page of the moment she ripped the hat from Vitale’s head on campus.”
Watch this space for updates on the criminal case against the UC Riverside college student who allegedly took a Trump supporter’s MAGA hat.
[Featured Image by Brynn Anderson/AP Images]