San Francisco, CA – A Superior Court judge has dismissed a subpoena by ‘weed Nazi’ Bethany Sherman in her attempt to reveal the identities of anonymous antifascists who published an article about her ties to white supremacist groups. Sherman, 36, had been the CEO of a legal cannabis company in Eugene, Oregon before being outed as a neo-Nazi by Eugene Antifa and her employees. Sherman brought the lawsuit on behalf of herself and her company OG Analytical, which went bankrupt after her neo-Nazi ties were revealed.
Sherman is married to Matthew Lee Combs, a neo-Nazi with connections to the American Patriots Brigade, a group with ties to American Front, a prominent neo-Nazi group in the US. Unicorn Riot had previously reported that her Los Angeles-based attorney, William Daniel Johnson, is a known white supremacist with ties to neo-Nazi networks such as the World Congress of Aryan Nations.
Johnson was not present during oral arguments; instead, Sherman was represented by Douglas A. Crowder. Crowder is permanently barred from practicing debt relief cases because of his ties to a massive fraud according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Matthew Lee Combs at a neo-Nazi gathering in Oregon. Image via Eugene Antifa
Leaked chat logs obtained by Eugene Antifa, and independently verified by Unicorn Riot as part of our DiscordLeaks series, revealed a user ‘black hat 16,’ whose wife supported his neo-Nazi activities. Sherman was said to operate a neo-Nazi Twitter account with its display name set as ‘Mrs. Blackhat’ in an apparent reference to her husband Combs’ ‘black hat 16’ username.
The anonymous anti-racist researchers were represented by James Wheaton of the First Amendment Project and Cooper Brinson of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. Brinson successfully argued that his anonymous clients had a First Amendment right to anonymous political speech and that allowing the subpoena to move forward would place them at risk for extrajudicial violence.
Crowder unsuccessfully asserted that his client was not a neo-Nazi, leaning solely on Sherman’s own words. Pro Tem Judge Conor Moore was unconvinced, as Crowder offered no evidence to dispute the facts. Brinson had previously asked the judge if a reasonable person would use the word “neo-Nazi” to refer to Sherman. “If it looks like a Nazi, and talks like a Nazi, its a Nazi,” Brinson told the court on November 10.
Critically important to the ruling was conflicting non-denial denials that Sherman made in her declaration. Sherman declared, under penalty of perjury, her only public Twitter account she ran was
@OG_Bethany. Judge Moore noted that her declaration further stated “any other Twitter accounts I have had were private” and was unconvinced by the conflicting statements without additional evidence offered. Balancing this against Eugene Antifa’s First Amendment right to publish political opinions anonymously, Moore ultimately moved to quash Sherman’s subpoena. This effectively ended her campaign to uncover the antifascist activists who unmasked her Nazi activity.
Defense attorney Brinson spoke with Unicorn Riot about the ruling this afternoon. In a statement, he said:
“Obviously, we are pleased with the court’s decision. This is, however, just the first step toward beating back fascist attempts to disrupt antifascist organizing and we are actively working on additional offensive tactics to discourage fascists from abusing the court system.
This case, if it isn’t already obvious from the paltry state of plaintiff’s complaint, is a clear attempt to rebrand Nazism as a more socially acceptable form of nationalism or white supremacy. They aren’t fooling anyone. We know a Nazi when we see one. More importantly, we know what so-called white-nationalists will do once in power and we, therefore, must prevent them from carving out any forms of power, whether in the legal system, the political system or economically. White nationalism is a continuation of the racist colonial system that built the U.S. and it must be stopped.” –Cooper Brinson of the Civil Liberties Defense Center
In his ruling, Moore noted:
“[…] she does not deny using the Twitter account identified by the Website, but she simply states that she has never used such a Twitter account publicly. When asked at oral argument whether Plaintiff denies that she used this Twitter account, counsel would only reference back to her declaration. The Website’s authors have identified a Twitter account that likes and retweets white supremacist material, and have linked this Twitter account to Plaintiff. Plaintiff does not deny that it is her account, so she has not made a prima facie showing that the Website’s claims about her Twitter account are false. Without any showing as to falsity, there is no viable claim for defamation.” –Pro Tem Judge Conor Moore
Cover illustration by Dan Feidt, based on image by futurefilmworks (Creative Commons).