Love is free. Hate is not. A jury in federal court found leaders of white supremacy movements, including the alt-right, liable for the terror inflicted upon the Charlottesville community in 2017. The “Unite the Right” rally’s violence left dozens injured and one woman dead when one white supremacist intentionally drove his car into protestors who were denouncing the racist rally.
Plaintiffs who were injured at the rally sued more than a dozen of America’s most notorious white supremacists leaders and hate groups. Those defendants were found liable have conspired to intimidate, harass, or commit acts of violence at the deadly 2017 rally.
The jury decided that the men, including former alt-right leader Richard Spencer, rally organizer Jason Kessler and Christopher Cantwell, also known as the “crying Nazi”, should pay $26 million in damages to plaintiffs.
“Today was a huge victory against hate and for dignity and civil rights,” Plaintiffs’ attorney Roberta Kaplan said.
Plaintiffs and the civil rights nonprofit, Integrity Frist for America, said that a major motivation for the lawsuit was to financially cripple the “alt-right” and Neo-Nazi movement. In that – they succeeded.
The once self-assured Richard Spencer walked out of federal court seemingly defeated. Reporters asked if the award for damages against him might result in his wages being garnished, or liens being filed against his property, he told reporters, “they could do that. They could do all those things.”
Spencer also admitted that the “alt-right”, a movement the lawsuit aimed to dismantle, was “long dead and gone in my opinion,” Spencer said. “It’s buried.”
One of the counts Plaintiffs sued the white supremacists under was a Reconstruction-era statute designed to protect newly emancipated Black people from the Ku Klux Klan to hold the Defendants liable. Although the jury did not find the defendants conspired to commit race-based violence under the federal statute, every single defendant was found to have engaged in conspiracy to commit harm under state and law and some were found to have engage in race-based harassment or violence.
Two of the defendants, Spencer and Cantwell, represented themselves, allowing them to interrogate their victims and partners in crime. And although the federal judge presiding over the trial complimented the parties, attorneys and jurors for a “very civil proceeding,” there were plenty of racist and downright disgusting behaviors on display during the trial.
For example, Joshua Smith, who represented Matthew Heimbach, Matthew Parrott and the Traditionalist Worker Party often repeated the word “k–e” during trial to “desensitize the jury” to the slur used against Jewish people. Smith would especially repeat the slur when Plaintiffs’ attorney Roberta Kaplan, who is Jewish and wore the Star of David around her neck during the trial, was within earshot.
Kelly R. McClintock joined Grewal Law in 2019 to help establish a human trafficking litigation division and to assist Grewal’s already successful practices, including sexual assault litigation, and family law.