Trial Date Set For Defendant In Columbus Day Protest

By Carla O’Day

Mahaffey Hearing Protester
A protester outside the Reno Municipal Court during a hearing for Nicholas Mahaffey.

An additional video surfaced from a Columbus Day protest in downtown Reno where a man reportedly drove a truck through a crowd. It will be provided to defense attorney Patrick McGinnis who agreed Tuesday to a March 1 trial.

During a case status hearing with Reno Municipal Court Judge Gene Drakulich, defendant Nicholas Mario Mahaffey waived the right to a trial within 60 days. Drakulich said a second status hearing could be scheduled if even more evidence becomes available.

Mahaffey, 18, was arrested Oct. 14 on a misdemeanor charge of provoking assault and posted $1,000 bail three days later. He pleaded not guilty during his Nov. 9 arraignment.

About two dozen people—many of whom attended the protest—were at Mahaffey’s status hearing, which lasted fewer than five minutes. Upon arrival, Mahaffey was escorted into the courtroom through another courtroom. He then made a swift exit with McGinnis after the hearing.

American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada met on Oct. 10 to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline and held a counter-celebration to Columbus Day, advocating it be named Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The 30-inch Dakota pipeline would transport domestically-produced crude oil from northwestern North Dakota to southern Illinois. The protesters didn’t obtain a permit, police said.

During a news conference in October following the event, Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said the protesters initially gathered peacefully at City Plaza and that Mahaffey and a 17-year-old male passenger riding with him in his truck attended a portion of the gathering. The demonstrators later marched north on North Virginia Street toward the Reno Arch, some disrupting traffic. Mahaffey’s truck was then seen driving south in the southbound lane from Plaza Street.

Nick Mahaffey, 18, was charged with provoking an assault after driving his truck through group of protestors.
Nick Mahaffey, 18.

“Mr. Mahaffey approached in an antagonistic manner, revving his engine and repeatedly honking his horn,” Soto said. “Some of this behavior is readily available on video and has been posted on various social media sites.”

Soto said video showed some protesters telling Mahaffey to take a different route but others threatened violence to Mahaffey. He and his passenger were punched in the faces. Mahaffey then drove through the crowd and called 9-1-1, telling police he feared for his life.

One woman, Kitty Colbert, was hospitalized.

Colbert attended Tuesday’s hearing in a wheelchair and seemed visibly upset after Mahaffey walked away. She said her attorney advised her against speaking to the press.

Two protesters, James Fletcher and Samuel Harry, were charged with simple battery. According to Reno Municipal Court docket entries, Fletcher was found guilty and sentenced on Monday to 10 days in jail and Harry has a bench trial set for January.

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Carla O'Day
About Carla O'Day 249 Articles
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.

1 Comment

  1. This story paints Mahaffey as a victim of battery, when he actually assaulted a crowd of unarmed people with a deadly weapon, his truck. I saw the video, where he deliberately drove his truck into a peaceful group of people. The story doesn’t explain the gravity of the injuries Kitty Colbert received when Mahaffey ran her over with his truck. She had a broken pelvis and other serious injuries that hospitalized her for weeks. It’s unbelievable that Mahaffey only faces misdemeanor charges after intentionally battering an innocent woman with a 5,000 pound vehicle.

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