A New Orleans Criminal District Court commissioner ruled there was no probable cause for two men caught spray-painting the base of the removed P.G.T. Beauregard monument to be arrested Wednesday on counts of defacing a historic landmark, but he said they can face the lesser offense of simple criminal damage to property.

Magistrate Court Commissioner Robert Blackburn reasoned that there was no longer a historic landmark on the pedestal in question, which he described as now "just a pile of bricks." 

Blackburn set bail Wednesday night at $2,500 each for father-and-son defendants Michael Kimble, 57, and Christopher Kimble, 31, both of Norco. Both men had posted bail by 9:45 a.m. Thursday and were released from custody, New Orleans jail records showed.

Authorities on Wednesday had spelled the defendants' last name as "Kimball," but court records said it is "Kimble."

The two men were arrested late Wednesday morning after New Orleans Police Department Cmdr. Nicholas Gernon spotted them spray-painting the words "Gen. Beauregard CSA" in red on the pedestal where the general's statue sat outside the entrance to City Park for more than a century.

Beauregard was a general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Gernon — who commands the city's 8th Police District, which patrols the French Quarter and Central Business District — collared the younger Kimble. Other New Orleans officers helped arrest the elder Kimble after witnesses saw him spray-painting the other side of the pedestal, police said. 

They were initially booked on defacing a historic landmark, an offense that can bring two years in prison as well as community service. 

But Blackburn ruled there was probable cause for police to book the Kimbles only on the lesser violation, which can call for up to six months in prison.

Beauregard's monument was taken down about 3 a.m. Wednesday after a seven-hour effort involving a hulking yellow crane.

The dismantling followed the city's recent removal of monuments to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the so-called Battle of Liberty Place, an 1874 insurrection in New Orleans led by a white supremacist militia.

A monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is also slated for removal.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu first called for the monuments' removal in 2015 after a white supremacist killed nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Following a lengthy court battle with supporters of the monuments, the city began removing the memorials last month.

Advocate staff writer John Simerman contributed to this report.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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