In a civil suit against an angry activist, Unite the Right rally organizer Jason Kessler has won $5.
The man who planned the August 12 event where neo-Nazis and counterprotesters clashed in the streets, leaving three people dead by the end of the day, said his suit was intended to bring “decorum.”
He sued Donna Gasapo, who called him every name in the book outside of Charlottesville General District Court in March. In a string of about 30 insults, “murderer,” “racist,” “asshole” and “goddamn crybaby” made the list.
“They are the exact words I said,” Gasapo told the judge. It was during DeAndre Harris’ assault trial, when community activists rallied outside the courthouse in support of him, and Kessler showed up to report on the trial for vdare.com, which appears to be an alt-right news source.
After missing the trial, Kessler told the judge he began covering the behavior of the activists outside the general district court, by filming them on his phone with personal commentary.
“I was trying to drown his words out so other people wouldn’t hear the terrible things he was saying about them or DeAndre,” Gasapo said.
Her attorney, Pam Starsia, who is also an anti-racist activist, argued that because Kessler is a public figure, Gasapo’s insulting words would have to meet a standard of actual malice. She said the entire community has been on edge since he brought a thousand white supremacists to town.
“Public discourse around those issues is protected by the First Amendment,” Starsia said, though Kessler said calling him a murderer was “reckless disregard for the truth,” and “it hurt [his] character.”
While Judge Bob Downer agreed with Starsia that Kessler’s reputation wasn’t damaged by Gasapo’s comments, he still sided with Kessler and ordered her to fork over $5, though Kessler originally asked for $495 more than that.
Amidst his win, Starsia said she doesn’t think it’ll stop the community of local activists from engaging in such behavior: “I’m very proud and confident that folks who have been having that discourse will continue to have it.”
In other court news, remember Kessler’s August 13 attempted press conference in front of City Hall, where his voice was drowned out by hundreds of shouting protesters until he was eventually chased off, tackled to the ground and escorted out by police?
Phoebe Stevens, a local advocate of peaceful intervention who was found guilty of assault in February, maintains that taking Kessler down wasn’t her intention. She was in Charlottesville Circuit Court June 28 to set a date for her appeal.
As she saw the crowd moving in on him, she said, “We love you, Jason,” and wrapped her arms around him, accidentally knocking him down in the chaos, according to her previous testimony. Her two-day trial is scheduled to start on Valentine’s Day.
In Charlottesville General District Court June 28, an assistant prosecutor announced that hearings for Nic McCarthy and Eleanor Ruth Myer Sessoms would be continued until July 19.
Both were arrested early last month during a late night protest on Market Street, where several community activists blocked traffic in protest of the day’s earlier conviction of Corey Long, the man who they say defended Charlottesville on August 12 when he pointed a homemade flamethrower at white supremacists.
Update July 2: Judge Bob Downer’s first name was omitted in the original version.
Updated 2:40pm July 2 with additional court case news.