For Immediate Release
Hendersonville Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Metro Courthouse Arson
Defendant “Gleefully Participated in Attempt to Burn Down City Hall” and “Reveled in His Newfound Fame”
NASHVILLE – The Hendersonville, Tennessee man, described in Court filings as “the face of the attempt to burn down City Hall,” was sentenced today to federal prison for his participation in the arson of the Metro Courthouse on May 30, 2020, announced U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Wesley Somers, 26, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger, to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
“On May 30, 2020, scores of local, state and federal law enforcement officers stood ready to protect the Constitutional right of every citizen to engage in peaceful protests,” said U.S. Attorney Wildasin. “Unfortunately, Somers and others interfered with a lawful assembly and resorted to violence and destructive behavior, which resulted in significant property damage and placed many at risk of harm. We will always defend the right of every individual to exercise their First Amendment liberties but will not tolerate the actions of those who choose to exploit peaceful protest by resorting to violence and intimidation.”
Somers was charged in a criminal complaint on June 3, 2020, following the May 30th protests in downtown Nashville, which resulted from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the evening, several persons gathered in front of the Nashville City Hall, also known as the Metro Courthouse, and began smashing the windows of the premises and spraying graffiti on the Courthouse facade. The interior of the Courthouse was also set on fire.
Numerous video clips and photographs of the destruction at the Courthouse were posted on social media websites, on the websites for news outlets, and on other Internet sites. One video depicted Somers lighting a sign on fire and placing it through the window of the Courthouse. Somers then sprayed an accelerant into the fire which quickly caused the fire inside the Courthouse to spread.
Somers was soon identified by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department – Specialized Investigation Division, after receiving numerous tips from citizens.
Records filed with the Court also indicate that after Somers was arrested and booked into the Davidson County Jail, he reveled in his newfound fame and related during a phone call that he was a celebrity among other inmates and had been nicknamed “Protest.”
Somers and Shelby Ligons, 23, of Nashville, Tenn., were indicted on October 20, 2020. Somers pleaded guilty on June 29, 2021. Shelby Ligons pleaded guilty on March 3, 2021. She was sentenced on August 11, 2021, to a year and a day in prison.
This case was investigated by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department; the FBI; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrader and Trial Attorney Justin Sher of the Department’s Counterterrorism Section prosecuted the case.