In a lawsuit filed on behalf of 10 alleged victims of last summer’s deadly August weekend in which hundreds of white supremacists and neo-Nazis descended upon Charlottesville, a federal judge is now considering whether to grant several of the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case.
Attorneys Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn claim that 25 individuals and groups named as defendants in the suit premeditatedly conspired to commit violence at the August 12 Unite the Right rally.
Plaintiffs include victims of the Fourth Street car attack, other white supremacist violence and extreme emotional distress, including Elizabeth Sines, Marcus Martin, Marissa Blair, the Reverend Seth Wispelwey and Tyler Magill, who suffered a stroke after being beaten on August 11.
“There is one thing about this case that should be made crystal clear at the outset—the violence in Charlottesville was no accident,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants spent months carefully coordinating their efforts, on the internet and in person.”
The document quotes Unite the Right promotions that stated, “If you want to defend the South and Western civilization from the Jew and his dark-skinned allies, be at Charlottesville on 12 August,” and “Next stop: Charlottesville, VA. Final stop: Auschwitz.”
The suit further quotes one rally organizer Elliott Kline (aka Eli Mosley), who allegedly declared, “We are going to Charlottesville. Our birthright will be ashes and they’ll have to pry it from our cold hands if they want it. They will not replace us without a fight.”
Ohio-based defense attorney Jim Kolenich, who represents Kline and nearly a dozen other high-profile Unite the Righters, including Jason Kessler and “Crying Nazi” Chris Cantwell, argued in United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia today that Kaplan and Dunn failed to prove that his clients conspired to be violent at the rally.
“There is no specific allegation in those paragraphs,” he said, adding that the only conspiracy was one “to come to Charlottesville and be provocative with their political speech.”
“Yes, they are provocative people,” Kolenich said, and noted that defendant Jeff Schoep, the neo-Nazi at the helm of the National Socialist Movement, has said if he could meet Adolf Hitler today, he’d thank him, as also referenced in the complaint.
Northern Virginia-based John DiNucci, who as of yesterday is representing Richard Spencer in the suit, made the same claim that no specific evidence pointed to Spencer’s premeditated conspiracy for violence. As did Brian Jones, a local lawyer who’s representing Michael Hill, Michael Tubbs and the League of the South.
Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, the New Yorker who founded The Right Stuff, a right-wing media hub, and podcast The Daily Shoah, is the only defendant representing himself in the case.
“I have many opinions that people may find shocking,” he told Judge Norman Moon, but he also said there’s no evidence that he was planning to be violent at Unite the Right, and though the lawsuit points out that he announced the rally on his podcast and his name appeared on rally fliers, Peinovich said that’s “just First Amendment stuff.”
To combat the claims that the suit’s defendants weren’t the ones who conspired to do harm, Kaplan told the judge, “We carefully chose the 25 defendants we did. …We went after the leaders.”
She said her team is still gathering evidence from sites that alt-right leaders used to plan for the rally, such as Discord, where they often use screen names to conceal their identities.
When she gave the real-life screen name example of “Chef Goyardee,” Peinovich shook with laughter. She also referred to internet conversation about running counterprotesters over with vehicles, which she said the alt-right has since denounced as an “edgy joke.”
“We believe that what we have here is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
Kolenich, who admitted during the hearing that he doesn’t know which Confederate general’s statue is causing such a ruckus in Charlottesville, said outside the courthouse that the judge should have a ruling within 30 days.
Beside him, his co-counsel gave a rare interview with Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira.
Said Elmer Woodard, the Blairs, Virginia, attorney who’s recently spent quite a bit of time in Charlottesville defending white supremacists at the state level, “I represent murderers, drug dealers and perverts, but I’m not one of them.”