A Virginia man caught on surveillance video spray-painting a "crown-like" symbol on the Arkansas Confederate Soldiers Monument at the Capitol pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief, reduced from a felony, on Monday in a plea deal that will see him released from custody after more than a year.
Court records show that Robert Corey Sutherlin, 31, of Mechanicsville, Va., has spent the past 2½ months at the Arkansas State Hospital before doctors concluded he was not mentally ill.
According to an arrest report, Capitol police saw Sutherlin walk up to the monument near Woodlane and West Fourth streets in Little Rock and paint the symbol on the marker's north side at sunrise on July 20, 2020.
Sutherlin used black spray paint that he had in his backpack. He refused to tell police his name, but authorities were able to determine his identity from his fingerprints.
According to the Central Arkansas Library System's Encyclopedia of Arkansas online, the north side is inscribed "Our furled banner/wreathed with glory/and though conquered/we adore it/Weep for those/who fell before it/pardon those who trailed and tore it."
Erected in 1905, the commemorative monument is a five-tiered sculpture with a 12-foot bronze angel holding a wreath at the top and an 8-foot bronze soldier carrying a flag at its front, sitting on a 19-foot-tall marble and granite base. It's been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1996.
Sutherlin pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail. He is now eligible for release after spending 434 days in custody.
Questioned by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Cathi Compton about why he had defaced the sculpture, Sutherlin said he is an artist who had wanted to "beauty up" the memorial when he walked up to it.
"I saw it was Confederate, so I thought I would bless it with something more positive," Sutherlin told the judge.
According to his mental evaluation, Sutherlin had been living with his mother and grandmother in Virginia in 2020, but when the pandemic began, his family felt that he was engaging in behavior that would lead to him becoming infected with the coronavirus and then spreading it to his relatives.
The report said that when his family requested a "wellness check" on Sutherlin, he got mad and moved out, engaging in a transient lifestyle that took him to Ohio, California and Texas.