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Man who participated in Grand Rapids riot apologizes, gets probation

Xavier Pinkley is one of 22 people charged in the late May 2020 riot that overtook downtown Grand Rapids.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A convicted rioter apologized for his behavior in downtown Grand Rapids nearly a year ago, telling a judge he is ready to move on with his life.

“I just want to apologize and just let everybody know that I was sorry,’’ Xavier Pinkley said during a sentencing hearing on Tuesday. “I was going through a lot of things.’’

Pinkley, 25, was charged with riot and attempted malicious destruction of a building, specifically, the Michigan Secretary of State office at Division Avenue and Fulton Street.

Defense attorney Dustyn Coontz said his client is an aspiring musician who is ready to move on with his life.

“In a perfect world everyone is a peaceful protester, but it doesn’t always work,’’ Coontz said. “I’m not saying throwing a crowbar at a building is the right way to get justice, but I can say I understand.’’

Pinkley has overcome many obstacles, including being the victim of abuse, Coontz said.

Kent County Circuit Court Judge Christina Elmore placed Pinkley on probation for three years. He was also credited with three days he’s already served in the Kent County Jail. Sentencing guidelines called for a prison term of between zero and 17 months.

Difficulties in Pinkley’s past, the judge said, “doesn’t give you the right to victimize other people.’’

“And the Secretary of State wasn’t even involved with anything,’’ Elmore said. “So, I’m not sure why or what the goal was with attempting to damage or throw things at the window to attempt to break it.’’

The judge ordered Pinkley to pay nearly $1,200 in fees and costs. Restitution for damage remains open.

“If there is a claim for restitution, then maybe there’ll be a restitution hearing down the line,’’ Elmore said.

In all, 22 people were charged in the May 30-31 riot that overtook downtown Grand Rapids following a protest to denounce the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. 

Eight defendants have pleaded guilty so far; five have been sentenced.

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