WASHINGTON -- The young Republican who grabbed national headlines after being arrested for throwing voter registration forms into a dumpster before the 2012 election won't be facing any legal consequences.
A judge in Virginia dropped several misdemeanor charges against Colin Small on Wednesday, meaning the 23-year-old will not face any penalties for discarding a number of voter registration forms. Felony charges were dropped back in April, but Small was still facing five misdemeanor counts until this week.
During a four-hour court hearing on Tuesday, Small's lawyer John C. Holloran argued that Small simply made a mistake and wasn't trying to purposefully prevent anyone from registering to vote. Small, a friend from college and Small's former tennis coach all testified.
While Small tossed eight voter registration forms, he was only charged with discarding four, because some of the voters were already registered and one was a felon and not allowed to vote. Holloran said the voters who were prevented from voting were Republicans and blamed Democrats for making Small's case seem like part of a conspiracy.
"It's amazing that common sense and wisdom and mercy don't have a more stellar place in our justice system," Holloran told The Huffington Post. "The Democrats blow it up for the presidential election, accuse the Republicans of committed fraud. The Republicans in our jurisdiction then, you know, absolutely drop the anvil on him … In order to cover their butts, they went overboard on another Republican so they couldn't be accused of favoring their own."
Small had been registering voters on behalf of the Republican Party and was paid by Strategic Allied Consulting until the Republican National Committee ended its relationship with the firm. When he tossed the voter registration forms in the dumpster behind a strip mall down the street from the Republican headquarters, Small was being paid by Pinpoint Staffing, which was closely associated with Strategic Allied Consulting.
Being careless or making a mistake shouldn't have resulted in criminal charges, Holloran said.
"It was taking a case where a kid made a mistake and blowing it up in the winds of a presidential election. Democrats batted it out of the park, or tried to, and Republicans said, well, we better [cover our ass] on this and we'll just roast one of our own so nobody can call us and say we're playing favorites because the kid's a Republican," he said.
Small is now living back at home in Pennsylvania and working at a restaurant. "He's back home living with mom and dad, and his life has been on hold, basically, ever since the charges came out," Holloran said. "The bigger picture is that before Oct. 15 of last year, that mother and father and Colin and his sister never hit anything other than good grades, Eagle Scout, successful athletics, good reputation, high moral character, that's what they knew in life. And then all the sudden he became a national figure. They took an awful booking photo of him, he looks almost evil. He's just a nice kid, and they just rolled over that family and that family has been traumatized."
The experience has left Small's family skeptical of the judicial system, Holloran said.
"They're not from the hood, where you go 'hey man, don't deal with the man, the cops don't play it straight up and don't trust prosecutors.' They trust cops and they trust prosecutors because they believe they're going to do justice. It's a very difficult education for them," Holloran said.
The prosecutor who handled Small's case did not respond to The Huffington Post's request for comment.