Jury Finds Organizers Of ‘Unite The Right’ Charlottesville Rally Culpable For Damages
A federal jury on Tuesday reached unanimous verdicts on four out of six claims against Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler, Matthew Heimbach, Christopher Cantwell and a dozen other white supremacist participants in the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which angry torch-bearing brigades stormed through the historic town chanting hateful epithets such as “Jews will not replace us” and that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer.
The jury was deadlocked on counts one and two, which – respectively – alleged that Spencer and his confederates conspired to commit racially-motivated violence and had foreknowledge of a conspiracy to commit racially-motivated violence that they failed to prevent.
On counts three and four, however, the jurors found that the defendants violated a Virginia state conspiracy law as well as a law that forbids racial, religious or ethnic harassment or violence.
The jury granted $500,000 in punitive damages against all 12 individual defendants and $1 million against five organizations for conspiracy,
Counts five and six were related to the actions of James Alex Fields Jr., who rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing activist Heyer and injuring dozens of others. He is serving a life sentence for murder.
Keller, the organizer of the rally, referred to Heyer’s murder as “payback” shortly after the event.
James Kolenich, the defendants’ counsel, tried to convince the jury that his clients were never part of a conspiracy, despite the despicable nature of their private communications.
“These guys know each other, they talk to each other and they say all kinds of ridiculous things and believe all kinds of … deeply offensive and even dangerous things,” Kolenich said. “None of that proves a conspiracy.”