Charlottesville, VA – The lawsuit against leading white supremacist organizers and groups began trial on October 25, 2021 at the federal courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia. Attorneys with civil rights nonprofit Integrity First For America are representing victims of racist attacks at the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.1642111296-2021-nov-18-moon-sines-v-kessler-317cv72-cvl-jt-day_19-final
Additional Resources via Integrity First For America: Trial & Deposition Video Transcripts • Searchable Database of Plaintiff’s Trial Exhibits
Unicorn Riot’s rush transcript from Nov. 18, 2021 is below. While the official court transcript is more comprehensive, UR’s live notes sometimes contain visual descriptions of elements not noted by the court reporter, including the visual appearance of exhibits shown at trial, movements of parties in the courtroom, and happenings in and around the courthouse.
NOTE: Rush transcripts are generated from Unicorn Riot’s live tweets posted in real-time while observing trial proceedings from inside the courthouse media room. Quotations and descriptions written here are not always precise verbatim quotes and sometimes use paraphrasing or shorthand to quickly capture and convey exchanges during court hearings. There may be some errors regarding details like jury numbers, exhibit numbers and dates as well as typos and missing punctuation. These rush transcripts do not capture every single moment, but are our attempt to provide the public with as much direct access to the trial as possible until full court transcripts are made publicly available at a later date.
Day 19 – Nov. 18, 2021 (Collected from this tweet thread)
Day 19 in the ‘Sines v. Kessler’ Charlottesville ‘Unite The Right’ federal civil rights lawsuit trial is starting now. After nearly four full weeks of testimony, closing arguments are happening today
Court has started for the day, seems the jury isn’t in yet – some discussion about jury instructions regarding the first amendment and “abstract advocacy of lawlessness”.
Robert Kaplan from @IntegrityforUSA legal team is starting closing arguments for the plaintiffs- thanks jurors for their time and attention. Asks jurors to tell the defendants “none of this is funny” and find that they committed racially motivated violence on August 11-12, 2017.
Kaplan reminds jurors that the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” does not apply in civil cases but they only need find a “preponderance of the evidence” supports the claims of an anti-civil rights conspiracy.
Attorney Karen Dunn now takes over the plaintiffs’ closing arguments. She says “the evidence in this case has been overwhelming” and reminds jurors about the law around conspiracy. Dunn tells the jury that co-conspirators can conspire together with both legal and illegal aims – “even if one objective here was to hold a rally but another was to commit racially motivated violence, that would be unlawful”
Dunn: Plaintiffs in this case do not need to prove any formal agreement…all we have to show is a shared objective to cause (not commit) racially motivated violence…many co-conspirators are not named in this lawsuit…
Dunn reminds the jury that “the law holds co-conspirators liable for all the reasonably foreseeable acts of their co-conspirators” – “you don’t have to cause the violence yourself” to be liable.
“One may become a member without knowing all the details of the scheme…or the identities of all the co-conspirators” – Dunn says many people in this conspiracy stayed anonymous online
Dunn uses the example of a ‘drug conspiracy – “it doesn’t matter if you’re a big fish or small fish…if you take one act to join that conspiracy…once you join the conspiracy at any time you are liable for the whole conspiracy and acts of your co-conspirators.”
“Judge Moon has already found a conspiracy as to defendants Elliott Kline and Robert ‘Azzmador’ Ray…and that they were motivated by racial animus, the violence was foreseeable to them, and they ratified the violence…you will decide who else was a part of this conspiracy…”
Dunn cites Jason Kessler posting on Discord in May 2017 saying “we need a Battle of Berkeley situation… bring everything they’ve got and fight this shit out”
Dunn says Kessler “built an army” and deliberately invited violent actors to Charlottesville “to cause racially motivated violence at the ‘Battle of Charlottesville'”
Dunn quotes Kessler calling the alt-right “a dangerous movement” that feeds on “unchecked racism.”
Dunn: “Eli Kline was Kessler’s co-organizer… he had deep contacts in the alt-right movement, he was Richard Spencer’s right hand guy… and Spencer empowered Kline to make decisions for him… working with Kine would help Jason Kessler…attract soldiers… for his battle…”
Dunn shows the photo of Nathan Damigo punching a counter-protester in Berkeley, says “the white supremacist movement saw an opportunity out of this to get out of the shadows and dominate the streets… that is what Kessler had in mind…for all his talk about a permit in the park, that was never the point… the point was to “fight it out” in the streets, to bring an overwhelming fighting force…”
Dunn shows a Matt Heimbach post with a Joseph Goebbels quote about “whoever can conquer the streets can one day conquer the state” – mentions that Heimbach added text about “driving our enemies off the streets.”
Dunn plays the Pikeville, KY rally speech clip of National Socialist Movement leader Jeff Schoep calling for antifascists’ “blood on the ground.”
Dunn says Richard Spencer takes a “more lofty approach”, tells jurors… “don’t let the political theory fool you… he is saying the exact same thing as everyone else… this is about the use of force… and that was the plan for the Battle of Charlottesville…” Dunn shows a quote from Richard Spencer – “For us, it is conquer or die” – says defendants had a common vision of turning North America into a whites-only “ethnostate” – cites quotes by Heimbach and Schoep about the ethnostate. Dunn cites a quote from NSM leader Jeff Schoep about how a “deeply held belief of a future civil war a future race war” encouraged neo-nazis to “harden their resolve and prepare for violence.”
Dunn says “over and over in this case…they had the belief that if counter-protesters were in your way, you had the right to run them over.” Shows a post and testimony quote from Vanguard America where Dillon Hopper endorsed running over protesters. Dunn shows a quote from League of the South leader Michael Hill endorsing running over protesters and refers to similar statements.
Karen Dunn: “defendants have been working hard to distance themselves from James Fields… without telling you… these defendants believed they were entitled to run [counter-protesters] down… and that is exactly what happened.”
Dunn tells the jury about the conspiracy law requirement that “at least one defendant” has to take “an overt act…knowingly done in furtherance of some object or purpose of the conspiracy” – points out not all co-conspirators need to have taken the act. “We have proved that.”
Dunn is going over “overt acts” she says defendants committed.
She refers to Jason Kessler’s text to Richard Spencer about “raising an army” and Spencer replied “I’m there.” Dunn mentions Samantha Froelich’s deposition where she said Eli Mosley wanted to “raise an army” for Richard Spencer. Dunn says it is “unsurprising” that a “celebrity” like Spencer would “deputize” others to “do his dirty work for him.”
Dunn cites Heimbach’s testimony that Kessler asked him to invite the Hammerskins and Blood and Honour skinhead groups. She reminds jurors of Heimbach’s “unbelievable” claim that “more skinheads leads to less violence” and reminds them TWP wore black uniforms to hide blood.
Dunn is going over the website of the Nationalist Front (Traditionalist Worker Party, League of the South, National Socialist Movement, Vanguard America) – says the site makes it clear the ‘Front’ was an agreement to work together against common “enemies.” Dunn cites Discord messages where Matt Heimbach & Dillon Hopper talk about bringing groups together for Charlottesville – “Now all we need is Spencer and Damigo… this is where Charlottesville comes in…we’re all doing it together…”
Dunn refers to League of the South leader Michael Hill’s tweet calling for people to come to Unite The Right “to defend the south and Western Civilization against the Jew and his dark-skinned allies” as proving the racial animus at the heart of this case. Dunn shows Heimbach/TWP posts advertising Charlottesville, shows they quoted Hitler in promoting the event.
Jeff Schoep from the NSM promised Kessler “battle tested men” who would fight in the streets, emails show that Dunn displays to the jury.
Dunn shows quotes from defendant Chris Cantwell where he bragged about the size of his audience and said he knew some of his 10-20,000 listeners would engage in violence if he called for it.
Dunn shows a text from Richard Spencer to Eliott Kline/Eli Mosley that says “this is going to be a violent summer.”
“That puts a pretty fine point on it” – Dunn Dunn says “every element” of the conspiracy case is in another text exchange between Cantwell and Spencer where Cantwell says he is “willing to risk violence and incarceration for our cause” and Spencer replies, “it’s worth it, at least for me.”
“You don’t have to be James Fields to be liable for injuries that occurred in the car attack” – Dunn is telling jurors the law means a defendant can be liable for “foreseeable risks created by his conduct” – says defendants encouraging car attacks and group violence at the event.
Dunn refers to DMs between Matt Heimbach and ‘Furor-Teutonicus’ where the two discussed using shields at Charlottesville but decided to move the conversation to a more ‘secure’ channel, Dunn points out Heimbach claims to have forgotten this conversation. Dunn quotes a Discord post from a Vanguard America member asking how many shields would be necessary to “remove commie from Lee Park.”
Dunn says when the alt-right groups say “commie” they mean anyone who opposes them, such as Jews. Dunn shows more messages from Heimbach about the need to “take the park” on August 12, 2017 and says Heimbach’s testimony that this comment just meant he planned to get there early was “not credible.”
Dunn: they also planned to use mace, which they also called ‘gas’ in a reference to the Holocaust…
Dunn shows a Discord post from Chris Cantwell about bringing extra batons and pepper sprays to the event and hoping to distribute them. Dunns refers to Discord posts by Dillon Hopper and Robert ‘Azzmador’ Ray that said “gas the k*kes” in relation to Unite The Right. “This was not a catchphrase…this was an actual plan.”
Dunn shows a Facebook exchange between Jason Kessler and Derrick Davis of the TWP where they discussed bringing flagpoles that can be “weaponized.”
Dunn also referred to Samantha Froelich’s deposition where she said people discussed bringing flagpoles with knives attached. Dunn reminds the jury that Froelich testified that people discussed running people over with cars in talks at Richard Spencer’s apartment before Unite The Right.
Dunn pulls up more posts from Chris Cantwell and Matt Heimbach that encouraged driving into protesters before the event. “We saw this on the Discord too… open discussion about whether running over protesters was legal… it was not, by the way… this is reasonable foreseeability… all members of this conspiracy… are liable for this.”
Dunn quotes plaintiff Marissa Blair’s testimony that “nobody would have expected for your friend to be killed for what she believes is right, right in front of you” – Dunn then quotes Vanguard leader Dillon Hopper’s comparison of counter-protesters to “surfers” who chose to risk being bitten by sharks, because people counter-protesting Unite The Right should have known assault and death was “imminent.”
Dunn says defendants encouraged violence by talking about “antifa” – shows a post from ‘Azzmador’ that says “all that shit’s an excuse” and a post from Michael Chesny aka ‘Tyrone’: “What if we are sociopathic and want them to show up for… self-defense?”
Dunn shows communications from Jason Kessler, Michael Hill and Jeff Schoep that show it was a “general tactic” to try to “bait” their opponents to “start something.” Dunn quotes sworn testimony from Michael Hill of the League of the South “I am not personally aware of any acts of violence committed against any of the defendants” by antifascists during Unite The Right, casting doubt on self-defense claims.
Dunn refers to testimony where both Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer admitted the torch march would evoke the KKK and “racial intimidation.” Dunn reminds jurors that Kessler declined to notify police or the university about the torch march until the very last minute. Dunn is going over the torch march – says Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler, Eliott Kline, Identity Evropa, Vanguard America, Azzmador and other defendants were there.
Dunn shows the jury Spencer’s “Fact Check: True” tweet bragging about surrounding students at the statue. Dunn shows a quote from ‘Azzmador’ about ‘gassing’ people at the torch rally, says Chris Cantwell has pled guilty to assault during the torch rally.
Dunn quotes Jason Kessler’s testimony at the torch march where he claimed to be concerned and try to stop violence that night. Dunn points out he didn’t call the police, try to divert the march or call Eliott Kline. Kessler also claimed “he didn’t see the violence”.
Dunn shows a dark video of Richard Spencer leading celebratory cries of “we own these streets…we own this group” after students were beaten at the Jefferson statue Friday night.
Dunn shows texts where Kessler and Kline congratulated each other after the violent torch rally. Dunn plays a clip of the video from Unite The Right August 12 when the Nationalist Front group (TWP, League of the South, National Socialist Movement) violently charges into counter-protesters with shields and clubs under orders from Matt Heimbach.
Dunn shows TWP tweets the day after Unite The Right that brags about “plowing through a human wall of communists” – “each one of these things is an overt act in this conspiracy just as each act of planning was an overt act.”
Dunn shows a tweet from Michael Hill of the League of the South bragging about having “smashed through the leftist barricade.”
Dunn shows the jury a clip of Michael Tubbs of the League of the South yelling “follow me” to others inside the park at Unite The Right before leading them to charge and attack counter-protesters outside the park. Tubbs testified he “wouldn’t change a thing” about that day.
Dunn shows photos of Vasillios Pistolis (TWP) and Ben Daley (Rise Above Movement) violently assaulting people at Unite The Right – says they both pled the fifth to avoid incriminating themselves in their depositions. Daley was seen choking a woman while Eliott Kline watched.
Dunn plays a clip from Azzmador’s livestream that showed Jason Kessler and Robert Ray joking about hanging pastor Cornel West.
Logos from Vanguard America, Traditionalist Worker Party and League of the South were present at the brutal parking garage beating of DeAndre Harris – Dunn tells the jury the beating was an “overt act” as part of the alleged conspiracy to commit racial violence.
Dunn is now describing James Fields’ car attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured 7 of the plaintiffs behind this lawsuit. Dunn says Fields saw Heyer and others he hit as “the enemy” and “communist” and says he had common ideology with his co-defendants, and promoted Unite The Right online ahead of time.
Fields “considered himself part of the “we” and the “us” of the “army” of violent white supremacists”, Dunn tells the jury. Shows texts where he referred to “our guys”… “he feels he’s a part of this.” Dunn shows photos of Fields marching “shoulder to shoulder” with members Vanguard America – in some of the pics he is seen near Vanguard America leader Thomas Rousseau and Identity Evropa leader and rally organizer Eliott Kline.
“Fields joined the march with Vanguard America and joined the conspiracy… the head of Vanguard America Dillon Hopper testified that Thomas Rousseau… who took over the group… invited Mr. Fields into the Vanguard group… Mr. Fields is there at Mr. Rousseau’s invitation.”
Dunn shows the jury a post sent months before Unite The Right where James Fields posted about driving into protesters. In that post he used the hashtag “shut it down”. Dunn shows a tweet Fields sent an hour before his car attack that again says “shut it down” – that tweet tagged Richard Spencer, Brad Griffin (League of the South) and David Duke.
Dunn shows the jury discord chats from inside Vanguard America shortly after news broke of the car attack – “If he’s not VA then how does that explain him being surrounded by VA and him being dressed like us” Another Vanguard member wrote “we fucking killed someone” and the group discussed a cover-up strategy. Dunn reminds jurors that Vanguard America intentionally kept no membership records.
Dunn tells the jury that defendants in this lawsuit “considered Fields to be one of them” – Cantwell hugged Fields in jail, Vanguard America sent him a Christmas card, Matt Heimbach and Jason Kessler sent him letters and money. “This is a common unlawful purpose, an agreement and ratification, and an overt act” – plaintiffs’ attorney Karen Dunn
Dunn shows texts of rally organizers reacting to the car attack, when Kessler called for a meeting of “leaders and essential people only” to plan a response. Around the same time Kessler repeatedly reached out to tell Elliott Kline “to delete the Discord.” “The reason he wanted to delete the Discord is because of culpability, because of liability… Nathan Damigo wanted to do the same thing” – Dunn shows texts where Identity Evropa organizer Patrick Casey asked if he should delete a Discord chat and tell Identity Evropa not to talk to cops – Damigo said yes.
Dunn says that Richard Spencer “knew he was a part of it” when blowback started after Unite The Right and he helped come up with damage control talking points – “the same talking points we’ve been hearing at this trial…”
Next slide Dunn shows reads “celebration and ratification of the violence.”
“All of the defendants in this case ratified the violence” – Dunn shows a post where Michael Hill wrote “our warriors acquitted themselves as men.” Dunn points to Hill’s email where he wrote “we wanted a public confrontation in Charlottesville for the world to see, and we got it!” Dunn shows a post from Matt Parrott of the TWP that called Charlottesville “a tremendous victory” that proved the alt-right was “a fearsome fighting force.”
A quote from Richard Spencer in the New York Time called Unite The Right “a huge moral victory in terms of a show of force.” Dunn reminds jurors that Michael Tubbs from the Florida League of the South tweeted 6 times that “James Fields did nothing wrong” – counterposes this to Tubbs’ lawyer Bryan Jones trying to condemn the car attack in his opening statement. Dunn shows posts by Vanguard America leader Dillon Hopper celebrating the car attack before, in Hopper’s words, he realized Fields “was connected to our group.”
Dunn shows more online posts from Thomas Rouseau, Chris Cantwell and Jason Kessler happily applauding the car attack. Dunn says defendants “didn’t all play the same role” but that doesn’t change their liability in the conspiracy.
Dunn shows a chart divided into ‘Leaders’ (Kessler, Kline, Spencer, Heimbach) ‘Group Leaders & Promoters’ (Schoep, Hopper, Hill, Rousseau, Damigo, Dantwell, Azzmador) and ‘Foot Soldiers’ (Tubbs, Fields, Parrott, Griffin, Daley, Ike Baker, Chesny, Pistolis, Derrick Davis, Conte).
Dunn says the plaintiffs didn’t sue everyone who came to the rally but “the leaders, the promoters, the people who brought the army… and the most violent members of the rally.”
Dunn has slides with lists of evidence showing each defendant’s participation in the conspiracy – says she won’t go over all of this because it’s too voluminous.
Dunn is reading off the slide “Richard Spencer Was A Member of the Conspiracy” – says he worked mostly through intermediaries, quotes his manifesto about “dominating the streets.” Dunn reminds jurors of Spencer’s violent, racist, antisemitic “they get ruled by people like me… I rule the fucking world” rant the night of August 12: “this is the real Richard Spencer.” Dunn says Spencer played that rant audio himself during arguments because “desensitization is a tactic of this conspiracy” and asks jurors “not to be desensitized” during their deliberations.
Dunn says Nathan Damigo was a leader of Identity Evropa, approved IE “battle gear” to wear in Charlottesville, was on weekly planning calls, “celebrated and ratified the violence” and told Patrick Casey to “delete the intel server” and tell IE members not to talk to police. Dunn shows a photo of Matt Heimbach and Eliott Kline speaking in Emancipation Park, reminds jurors Heimbach told them he never spoke to Kline inside the park.
Dunn moves to her slide about TWP co-leader Matt Parrott, reminds them that he encouraged people to delete evidence, deleted tons of TWP documents himself (TWP lawyer Josh Smith objects to this) and encouraged TWP members to only discuss violence in private. Dunn shows tweets Matt Parrott made after TWP had been sued in this case where he tried to claim TWP wasn’t invited to Unite The Right “until the last minute” – Dunn reminds jurors that Parrott was in planning talks for the rally as early as May 2017.
Dunn moves to a slide about Cantwell – says he encourages listeners to “kill and die” and told Richard Spencer he was “willing to violence and incarceration”, admitted to “beating the shit out of” someone, called for killing ppl in the VICE doc, endorsed Fields’ cat attack.
Dunn says Vanguard America discussed bringing shields and weapons, took part in street violence in Charlottesville, endorsed violence after the fact, and admitted James Fields marched with their group.
Dunn says she will skip slides for Michael Hill, Michael Tubbs and Jeff Schoep due to having already discussed them. She pauses to say the National Socialist Movement’s after-action report ratifies the violent conspiracy and admits to being very violent despite “no opposition.”
Dunn says jurors will be able to make connections “for yourself” amongst the co-conspirators, to tell who was calling and texting each other, who chatted on Discord etc. Shows a web of lines indicating connections between bubbles with pics of each of the defendants.
Dunn: in his opening statement Richard Spencer said you should find for the plaintiffs because we are ‘on the side of the angels’.. that is not true, we are asking for you to find for us because.. if you consider the law… and the evidence… you will find for the plaintiffs…
Plaintiffs’ attorney Karen Dunn seems to be finished with her portion of closing arguments in the Sines v. Kessler case.
Judge Moon calls for a 20 min recess.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Roberta Kaplan will finish closing arguments for the @IntegrityforUSA legal team after the break.
Jury is back in after the break.
Robert Kaplan is resuming closing arguments for the plaintiffs – starts with a slide titled ‘Defendants’ Racial Animus’
Kaplan says plaintiffs must prove defendants were motivated by “dislike or hatred of Black or Jewish people” OR “Dislike or hatred of non-minorities because of their support for Black or Jewish people.” Kaplan tells the jury this has been the law for ~150 years since the Ku Klux Klan Act was passed. Kaplan tells jurors that the defendants aren’t their racist uncle at a holiday dinner – says that the defendants have repeatedly articulated deeply racist ideals at trial, including trying to defend Hitler in court. Kaplan will be going over the racial animus in regards to each defendants.
First slide is James Fields, refers to court documents where he admitted to admiring Hitler and Nazi Germany and espousing hatred of non-white people. Kaplan moves on to Jeff Schoep and the National Socialist Movement, points out that the party is directly named after the German nazi party, members were required to have “pure white blood” and not be Jewish. Kaplan discusses TWP, Heimbach and Parrott, talks about how they deeply admired Hitler and openly spoke about wanting to exterminate Jewish people.
Kaplan goes over Michael Hill, Michael Tubbs and League of the South, who she says are “proud” to espouse their bigoted animus. She goes over Michael Hill’s “pledge” to “be a white supremacist, an anti-Semite,” etc.
Kaplan says Eliott Kline, Identity Evropa leader as of August 2017, has already been found by the court to be motivated by racial animus. Kaplan shows a slide about Chris Cantwell with a few quotes from his show where he discusses his antisemitic views and how we wants to “genocide” Jewish people and sees Black people as “a fucking problem for me… a threat to my fucking existence…”
Roberta Kaplan moves onto to Robert ‘Azzmador’ Ray from the Daily Stormer, shows a particularly grotesque pro-slavery meme he posted on Discord the summer before Unite The Right.
Kaplan says Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler “tried to distance themselves… using a cleaner cut and less extreme image” but says they are “not so different from the others” – are white supremacists and want a whites-only ethnostate. Kaplan contrasts Spencer’s more genteel public image to is “back stage” behavior such as Sieg Heil chants at parties and the leaked recording of his violent, antisemitic tirade on the night of August 12- “He wasn’t mad about the death of Heather Heyer…he was mad about the fact that he lost a chance to promote himself…” – Roberta Kaplan discusses Richard Spencer’s rant “in the presence of his codefendants”
Kaplan discusses expert testimony from Professors Deborah Lipstadt and Peter Simi earlier in the case explaining “White Genocide/White Replacement” Theory, which claims Jews are puppet-masters of a global conspiracy to replace white people with people of color. Kaplan asks jurors “how many times did you hear about Hitler’s Mein Kampf” during defendant’s testimony – “they talked about it like a preacher talks about the Bible… because to many of them, it is.” Kaplan also reminds jurors that some footage from Unite The Right showed marchers chanting “Roof, Roof, Roof” in reference to Charleston church massacre gunman Dylann Roof.
Kaplan also reiterates how when the defendants say “communists” its usually a stand-in for “the Jews.” Kaplan addresses defense attempts to dismiss violent and racist statements as jokes or “tough talk” – “defendants’ use of humor…was a cover.” Kaplan shows jurors quotes from the Daily Stormer style guide about how they use humor “to convey double meaning” in an “obvious” “ploy.”
Kaplan’s slides are on another section now – “Defendants’ Glorification of Violence”
Kaplan refers to a portion of Judge Moon’s jury instructions that say defendants must be shown to have intended to deprive people of their right to be free from racially motivated violence. Kaplan says that defendants don’t need to have engaged in racially motivated violence themselves, but merely hope or intend for someone else to do so. Conspirators are liable for reasonably foreseeable acts of their co-conspirators.
Kaplan refers to Prof. Simi’s expert testimony that white supremacist talk of a race war is “literal” and that for the white supremacist movement, violence “is the way the view the world.” Kaplan shows quotes where defendant Matt Heimbach calling for a race war at Unite The Right and defendant Richard Spencer said his desired ethnostate would only come about via a traumatic “cataclysm.”
Kaplan moves on to discussing Chris Cantwell, says he knowingly uses his podcast to goad his armed listeners into violence and invited those followers who he called “cannon fodder for the race war” to come to Charlottesville for Unite The Right. Kaplan tells the jury that Jason Kessler invited Chris Cantwell to be a part of organizing Unite The Right because he knew Cantwell would bring his audience of followers with him.
Kaplan refers to messages on Discord where UTR ‘logistics coordinator’ ‘Kurt’ posted about “impaling people” and Michael Chesny aka ‘Tyrone’ replied by posting an Amazon link for buying poles. Kaplan says this mixture of the ordinary and the extreme is typical in this case.
Kaplan goes on to discuss Discord posts where Michael Chesny aka ‘Tyrone’ discussed running over protesters alongside chats about carpooling to the event. Kaplan says this combination of the “mundane and the extreme” is “about the normalization of violence.” Kaplan cites a chat where Vanguard America leader Thomas Rousseau said he wanted to see “jackboots on commie skulls…blood on the pavement” – Kaplan says Rousseau got what he wanted, shows jurors a picture of blood on the pavement after the car attack.
Kaplan says that the alt-right relied on a strategy of “triggering” people so they could be violent in response while maintaining “plausible deniability” Kaplan reminds the jury that Vasillios Pistolis invoked the fifth amendment when shown his chats bragging about “cracking skulls open.”
Kaplan says that while defendants don’t need to be shown to have engaged in violence themselves, “the reality is that most of them did.” Roberta Kaplan turns to discussing arguments made by the defense.
Says that defendants have claimed self-defense and tried to paint themselves as victims. Kaplan reminds jurors Judge Moon has said self-defense is not a defense to a conspiracy claim. Kaplan says that “in order to have a legitimate claim of self-defense, a person must be in imminent danger… an act of self-defense can’t happen later in time…When you have time to walk away, you have no argument for self defense.”
Roberta Kaplan Kaplan refers to Richard Spencer’s testimony that he didn’t see any student protesters act violently towards the torch march on August 11, says this means alt-right violence that night wasn’t self-defense.
Kaplan goes over the violent charge into counter-protesters the morning of Unite The Right and how defendants such as Hill and Parrott have tried to frame their violent push as self-defense, but says the charge was actually part of the violent conspiracy. Kaplan says that Chris Cantwell claimed to be using self-defense when macing people at the torch march, and reminds jurors Cantwell has continued to claim James Fields acted in self-defense when driving into the crowd despite Fields’ own guilty plea.
Kaplan goes on to defendants claims about “antifa” requiring them to defend themselves – Kaplan says this is a “smokescreen” to defend violent conduct. Kaplan shows a quote from Jason Kessler – “We triggered this Jew into attacking one of our guys and charged him with assault.” Kaplan cites Matt Parrott saying its “important for lawfare and optics” for TWP members to not throw the first punch when engaging in fights. Other quotes shown from Kessler’s chats talked about wanting to “crack antifa skulls in self defense.”
“When defendants weren’t trying to trigger antifa, they created fake antifa [accounts]” to justify violence, Kaplan says, pointing to various chats where defendant groups worked to create fake antifa posts. “This in itself is evidence of the conspiracy.” Kaplan cites Nathan Damigo asking for people to make him a “fake antifa army” to create fake posts. Kaplan shows a post from Eliott Kline aka Eli Mosley on August 11 that shows he was working to create fake ‘antifa’ accounts *during* Unite The Right.
Kaplan pulls up a list of “what the defendants claim are antifa”: anyone wearing black, anyone wearing dark sunglasses, anyone not with Unite The Right who had a helmet or a flagpole, anyone with red flags or flags with a fist, anyone with a green whistle, anyone with a bandana.
Kaplan says Cantwell’s claims re: antifa are coming “from a man filled to the brim with conspiracy theories…Mr. Cantwell showed you dozens of pictures of red bandanas.. and tried to paint it as something nefarious…”
Kaplan points out how plaintiff Natalie Romero said she was wearing a bandana because she was maced the night before and wanted something to protect her face. Kaplan tells the jury Romero “is not a member of antifa.”
Kaplan’s next section addressed defense claims about the rally’s “Permit and the First Amendment”.
Kaplan asks jurors to “not be fooled” by defendants “hiding behind the First Amendment” the same way they hide behind claims of self-defense. Kaplan says “a gang of bank robbers robbing a bank…have to use words and speech to plan their actions.. but the fact that they used words to plan their crimes” is not a First Amendment defense.
“A permit is not an excuse to commit violence” – Kaplan refers to claims that the rally permit authorized defendants Heimbach, Hill, and Tubbs to violently charge into counter-protesters, saying this is just an excuse. Heimbach’s lawyer Josh Smith interrupts Kaplan – “they were on their way to their permitted event!”
Kaplan says that when the torch rally was surrounding and attacking students at UVA during the torch rally, the defendants could have stopped and left, but didn’t. Cites Spencer’s writings about wanting to “dominate the streets.”
Kaplan moves onto the defense’s “Blame the Police” tactic, saying that despite issues with policing at Unite The Right, defendants can’t blame police for not stopping them. Says robbers can’t hold up a bank and then blame a bank’s alarm system for not catching them first.
Kaplan cites a quote from Matt Parrott of TWP about an earlier event where he said “looks like the cops are actually doing their jobs this time, unfortunately.” Kaplan says Parrott and Heimbach claimed the League of the South coordinated with the police on August 12, while the League of the South’s alleged police liaison said under oath he wasn’t in contact with the police that morning. Kaplan summarizes evidence showing that organizers of the torch rally and Unite The Right intentionally withheld information or misled the police about their plans. “The police aren’t to blame here, the blame rests on the defendants.”
Kaplan’s next slide section is entitled “The Cover Up”
Just like people “jumping off the Titanic, defendants have tried to blame each other” – Kaplan says this shows “defendants are conscious of their own guilt.”
Kaplan says that defendants’ claims not to know each other well are false, but even if they didn’t know each other they can still be co-conspirators under the law.
Matt Heimbach claimed not to know Eliott Kline or Jason Kessler but their phone records show extensive contact. Kaplan says Richard Spencer also dishonestly downplayed his contact with his codefendants, had 149 messages with Kessler, 88 texts with Cantwell. Kaplan says while Cantwell claimed to not know his codefendants in his opening argument, their connections are “deep and numerous” with lots of podcast co-appearances and contact before the rally. Cantwell also was roommates with codefendant Eli Kline just months after the rally.
Kaplan: If the nature of these relationships were completely lawful, why would defendants feel so compelled to cover them up?
Kaplan moves on to discussing how defendants have destroyed a lot of evidence in this case – mentions Matt Parrott telling TWP members to delete Facebook data and how Parrott deleted TWP’s entire online infrastructure and deleted his texts with Heimbach. Heimbach destroyed devices containing evidence and social media accounts, blaming two of his wives, Kaplan tells jurors. She also reminds them how NSM leader Jeff Schoep dropped his phone in the toilet and how Robert ‘Azzmador’ Ray has been sanctioned for not producing evidence.
Kaplan says Richard Spencer claimed he couldn’t be a co-conspirator because he wasn’t in the Discord used to plan the event, but Kessler testified that Spencer participated in the Discord through his agents such as Elliott Kline. Kaplan reminds the jury that Spencer denied having led the torch march on August 11 but was shown to have led the march along with Kessler and Kline.
Kaplan mentions tweets from Matt Parrott falsely claiming after Unite the Right that TWP had a late and minor role in planning Unite The Right even though Heimbach was “one of the very first people Jason Kessler reached out to” to plan the event. Kaplan says Heimbach/Parrott/TWP’s claim to be separate from the rest of the parties in the event is false – cites Parrott’s post about Identity Evropa (IE) “sending a detachment of fighters” to assist TWP, and IE leader Nathan Damigo marching into the park with TWP.
Kaplan moves on to discussing claims that defendants aren’t liable for the plaintiffs’ damages because plaintiffs should have expected to be injured. Kaplan cites questions from the defendants to plaintiffs who were at the torch rally, asking why they came back the next day knowing it could be dangerous.
She also mentions Dillon Hopper’s comparison of Heather Heyer to “a surfer who goes surfing in an ocean with sharks.” Kaplan says that the First Amendment protects the right to protest peacefully and that defendants violated that right by subjecting them to violence (referring to Hopper’s comments that people who came to counter-protest nazis should’ve expected to risk being assaulted or killed.)
Kaplan shows a slide with names and faces of the plaintiffs, asks jurors to appreciate how hard it has been for some of the plaintiffs to share their stories while being cross-examined by hostile defendants using the court process to harass them. Kaplan says many of the plaintiffs had never been to a protest, none are members of antifa, all were behaving peacefully on August 12 but were attacked anyway.
Kaplan says plaintiffs were “injured physically, mentally, sometimes both” by defendants. Kaplan’s slide to the jury is now showing ‘Before and After’ photos of the plaintiffs to contrast their injuries at Unite The Right with their appearance before the event. “Every single plaintiff’s life was marked by what happened that weekend… some have scars… chronic pain… every single one of them has PTSD and are haunted by flashbacks…nightmares.”
Kaplan is now going over the different categories of damages the jury can find defendants are liable for. Compensatory damages include past medical expenses and lost wages. Damages for ‘pain and suffering’ can ‘remediate’ and ‘compensate’ for the pain they suffered.
“Courts unfortunately don’t have other ways of making people whole” – Kaplan
Plaintiffs recommend compensatory damages and ‘pain and suffering’ damages in the range of ~$3-10 million per plaintiff, depending on the nature of a plaintiff’s injuries.
Kaplan says jurors will also be asked to consider ‘punitive damages’ to ‘deter future similar conduct’ and ‘punish’ defendants. Kaplan says the amount of punitive damages is up to the jury but asks them to choose an amount that would make “defendants and their co-conspirators never, ever do something like this ever again.”
Plaintiffs’ closing arguments in Sines v. Kessler are done now.
First to make defense closing arguments is James Kolenich, lawyer for Jason Kessler, Nathan Damigo and Identity Evropa.
Kolenich says plaintiffs showed “bravery” in an apparent appeal to respectability but describes the Unite The Right rally as just “rhetoric”.
Kolenich: when you hear all this testimony… I want you to say “so what?”.. the bravery and injury of the plaintiffs does not prove a conspiracy… the fact that these guys all know each other and say ridiculous, offensive, dangerous things…none of that proves a conspiracy…
Kolenich says that plaintiffs have only proved that “the alt-right is the alt-right”… says that documenting his clients’ racist and anti-semitic views does not prove a conspiracy. Says damages weren’t foreseeable and his clients didn’t knowingly enter into a violent conspiracy. “Even if they did agree to enter into triggering or violence to antifas… even if they…don’t care who is an antifa or isn’t…”, Kolenich tells jurors that “antifa… will come out any time the alt-right shows up…and yes the alt-right would like to fight them…”
Kolenich points out that defendants discussed whether or not it was legal to bring guns on to UVA campus. Kolenich says Kessler’s messages prove him saying “it is up to the antifa if we fight or not” & “planning to trigger the antifa so they can fight with them” isn’t a conspiracy: “they want to fight the antifas but they want to get away with it..they want..an actual legal reason…”
Kolenich says alt-right messages about “blood in the streets” is just talking about fighting, punching, pushing etc, not using cars or guns. Says fist fights don’t “mean anything to them as it means to older people…”
Kolenich points to discussion on Discord about the legality of running protesters over with cars as evidence that rally organizers were trying to behave lawfully.
“They didn’t agree to attack anyone offensively…there is no evidence that they did…”
Kolenich says “there is no foreseeability” to the car attack, says that TWP and the League of the South just ran into people on the sidewalk.
James Fields “did it by himself” – Kolenich incorrectly states that Fields was a “member” of Vanguard America but says that doesn’t implicate his clients which include Identity Evropa.
Kolenich says the plaintiffs have more exhibits and money than him so his case isn’t as striking. Kolenich makes a convoluted metaphor comparing the alt-right to a softball team where “antifa doesn’t like softball” and the umpires make everybody leave and cancel the softball game. Kolenich says that the car attack happened an hour and a half later “while the counter-protesters are celebrating cancelling the softball game…James Fields drives onto the softball field.”
Kolenich says that alt-right reaction to wonder ‘was James Fields one of us’ could have an “innocent explanation” – says plaintiffs haven’t proved what Kessler knew when he tweeted defending Fields and sent Fields money – “why wouldn’t he support a supporter of his politics?” Kolenich claims that “as time goes on…as more evidence comes out”, Kessler and other defendants distanced themselves from Fields.
Kolenich moves on to discussing Identity Evropa, says the main case against IE is the fact that Eliott Kline/Eli Mosley was a leader of Identity Evropa at the time. Kolenich says that since Kline had his own independent personal stake in the conspiracy, IE isn’t liable.
Kolenich seems to blame Richard Spencer, saying that Eliott Kline/Eli Mosley was answering to Spencer directly as opposed to Nathan Damigo or Identity Evropa. “Mr. Kline was operating for his own benefit… he was not doing anything on behalf of Identity Evropa… you cannot sink Identity Evropa because of the actions of Eliott Kline…if you find against them it has to be for another reason” – James Kolenich
“They have proven that Jason Kessler doesn’t care about violence towards anybody he doesn’t like… they have not proven that Jason Kessler agreed to attack anybody in such a fashion…” – Kolenich
“The evidence shows that whether it’s Jason Kessler…Nathan Damigo.. or anyone in Identity Evropa except Eliott Kline…all they conspired to do was get in a fist fight… they did not foresee that this would happen..” – Kolenich
Kolenich says that “deleting the Discord” only proves that Elliott Kline was “communicating with Richard Spencer… his boss…about whether he should do it or not.” Kolenich claims only Kline, not Kessler, was able to delete the Discord chat. Kolenich says the discord chat doesn’t show “agreement to do something equivalent to the car attack… all the alt-right rhetoric doesn’t justify a verdict for the plaintiffs… ” says talk of “rocks, bottles and shields” isn’t good enough…
Kolenich’s closing argument is done.
Next to give a closing argument from the defense side is David Campbell, attorney for James Alex Fields.
Campbell tells the jury that “James Fields intentionally drove his car into a crowd of people and injured many of these plaintiffs” and that Fields’ case here is different from the other defendants – “there is no doubt that Fields committed racially motivated violence.”
Campbell: the questions in regards to Fields are the amount of compensatory damages, his participation in the conspiracy, and punitive damages.
Campbell apologizes that it “is literally my job” to contest damages amounts in this case and says that will come off as “minimizing”. Campbell tells the jury they are allowed to disregard expert testimony, including medical experts who testified about medical damages. He also warns jurors against “duplicative damages”, aka charging Fields more than once for the same injuries to the same plaintiff.
Campbell is going over a list of plaintiffs injured in the car attack and their injuries, stresses there are differences between the severity and nature of their injuries. Campbell lists “plaintiffs not physically injured by the car attack” – his previous questioning in this case during medical expert witness testimony seemed intended to cast doubt on non-physical mental health treatment expenses that could end up in damages.
Campbell is showing slides with an overview of damages claims from each injured plaintiff. Campbell tells the jury he isn’t telling them what amounts of damages they should award or not to each plaintiff but is pointing out facts “for your consideration.”
Campbell finished his slides about damages re: each plaintiff, moves onto discussing the conspiracy element in the case, claims the only conspiracy evidence re: Fields is his tweet that tagged Richard Spencer, David Duke and Brad Griffin from the League of the South. Campbell says nobody knew who Fields was based on looking at his Twitter account, says “plaintiffs are asking you to speculate.. that because he showed up in a white polo shirt… he’s part of the conspiracy…”
A slide being shown by Campbell is entitled ‘Conspiracy of One?’ and claims the “car attack incident was lone wolf two hours after UTR over”, says while Fields shared organizers’ beliefs and was a Richard Spencer ‘fan’, he “didn’t organize or plan, he was merely an attendee.”
Campbell: “just because Fields saw a public posting and went to the event… does that mean that everyone at the event are all responsible for Fields’ act?… I think that answer is no.”
Campbell says punitive damages are not needed to deter Fields because he’s already in prison for life.
James Fields’ lawyer David Campbell is done his closing arguments now.
Judge Moon calls an hour long recess for lunch.
Judge Moon just sat back down on the bench, Richard Spencer (representing himself) is pacing by the podium so it seems he is next in defense closing arguments. A slide currently visible, presumably part of Spencer’s defense case powerpoint, lists his name – ‘Richard B. Spencer’ in white text on a blue background.
The jury is seated, Judge Moon tells Spencer he can start.
“Well this is it, the end of the road”, Spencer starts. Spencer tells jurors he hasn’t had “a lot of Charlottesville rallies” in the last few years and that he has “spent more hours as a tee-ball coach” or in other volunteer positions than he has organizing “large rallies.”
Spencer says he expected the court “would bring out a stockade so they could throw vegetables at me” and calls the trial a “character assassination” against him. Spencer says he is “grateful” for this case since he expected to eventually be brought to court for “radical” “rhetoric”, warns jurors “lawsuits like this can be used as a weapon against free speech.” Judge Moon interrupts Spencer to tell him that he told jurors to only consider the instructions of the law and he shouldn’t ask them to do otherwise.
Spencer proudly tells the jury how the quote “war is politics by other means” is from Carl Von Clausewitz who he tells them was “a historian.”
Spencer starts to mention a news interview by plaintiffs’ attorney Roberta Kaplan, Judge Moon interrupts Spencer to tell him he can’t mention that because it isn’t evidence in this case.
Spencer moves on to referring to the text exchange between himself and co-defendant Chris Cantwell where Cantwell told Spencer he was “willing to risk a lot for our cause, including violence and incarceration” and Spencer replied “It’s worth it.” Spencer says being willing to “risk” things like Cantwell said doesn’t have to imply anything sinister – tells the jury that to him, “white nationalism is about family” and “that absolutely is a cause that I would risk quite bit for…”
Spencer has repeatedly said “the law must be applied carefully and precisely” and coming back to circular talk about how this case threatens free speech. Says the plaintiffs claim free speech doesn’t matter, “it actually does matter”, he says, while raising his voice.
Spencer says he was invited by Jason Kessler in June 2017 to participate in Unite The Right and says it “felt like the next stop on the Spencer tour that was going on throughout 2017”, talks about his college talks and conferences where “antifa would show up.”
“The last thing in the world that I wanted by agreeing to speak at Unite The Right was an event that became catastrophe…that will forever remain a stain on the cause that I sincerely believe in…” – Spencer
“What was unique about Unite The Right was that Jason Kessler was attempting the title of the event… to bring in everyone…”
Spencer goes on to quote Trump’s “good people on both sides” remark, Judge Moon tells Spencer that comment isn’t in evidence.
Spencer: I can tell them that he said this
Judge Moon: you cannot…we are not going back to law school here…you cannot refer to it.
Spencer says he personally thought there were “good people on both sides” including the plaintiffs, says he thinks Natalie Romero is a”good person” and he is “disturbed” by her “suffering.” Spencer also says “there were bad people on both sides” which “includes entities like antifa.”
Spencer denounces James Fields, Vasillios Pistolis and ‘Mark Chesny’ as “bad people”, mentions many of his codefendants haven’t complied with discovery. Spencer says what was unique about Unite The Right was it was a “big tent… trying to unite the good and the bad.”
Spencer repeats his claim that he was not in the Discord server and didn’t know what was going on in the chat. Spencer says how he reacted on August 12 “speaks volumes to what my motivations were”, shows his tweet where he told people to leave Charlottesville, shows a picture of himself grimacing after being maced by police. Spencer says he “passively resisted the police” and “did not harm anyone… I didn’t order anyone to be harmed.”
“If I’m a general in some evil army… l’m a really bad one, I send a lot of mixed messages, don’t I?” – Richard Spencer
Spencer shows his tweet where he denounced Jason Kessler for applauding James Fields’ murder of Heather Heyer. Spencer seems keen to point out Kessler celebrating Fields’ attack. “This isn’t what I signed up for,” he says referring to the car attack and Kessler endorsing it. “Maybe there’s something to that”, Spencer says when mentioning the plaintiffs’ pointing out that he’s trying to implicate Kessler. Spencer tells the jury “Your task is to fairly, accurately apply the law”, asks them to consider “the big picture of how that can be done”. Spencer lectures them about “concepts of justice” such as “scapegoating” – “that is something people in the ancient world did – there would be a poor little innocent goat…” says this approach offers “catharsis”.
He mentions another approach he calls “Newtonian justice”… Spencer tells the jury their task is to pursue “Newtonian justice” and “not to give into that older form” of justice.
Spencer tells jurors that these two concepts of history “bring up a figure… that figure is Jesus”…
Judge Moon: Mr. Spencer I don’t know where you’re…
Spencer: you can’t cut me off…
Judge Moon: yes I can..
Judge Moon: you’re getting out of line.. argue this case…
Spencer: you can’t cut me off for using poetry, that’s ridiculous… it’s difficult and I’m going to finish
Spencer to the jury: Jesus was a teacher of the law of Moses… what was radical about him? He taught that the law applied to everyone…your task is to apply the law fairly and precisely even to those who you despise…I am in your hands, thank you
Judge Moon: alright.
Next up in closing arguments is Bryan Jones, lawyer for Michael Hill, Michael Tubbs and the League of the South.
Tubbs is asking jurors to consider whether his clients are responsible for the torch march and the car attack.
Jones: In order for Hill/Tubbs/League of the South to have been responsible for the torch march and/or Fields’ car attack.. they would have had to have entered into an agreement and Fields would have also have had to enter into an agreement…
Jones points out that Michael Hill, leader of League of the South, decided to pull out of plans for the Friday night torch rally (except for sending two ‘observers’) when he learned that the torch rally plans were ‘leaked’ by ‘antifa’.
“Being an observer does not make you part of an agreement to commit racially motivated violence… plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to prove that Hill/ Tubbs or League of the South conspired to commit racially motivated violence at the torch march…” – Jones
Jones moves on to discussing his clients in relation to the car attack, says that for Fields to be in a conspiracy with them he would have had to have contact with them. Jones says Fields was alone, not with any codefendants, when he drove the car.
Jones points out that while the rally was “centrally planned on Discord” according to expert witness Prof. Simi, James Fields wasn’t on Discord and was mostly texting with his mom that day. Jones pulls up Jason Kessler’s permit for the rally to take place at ‘Lee Park’, Jones points out the intersection the car attack took place at isn’t at the park.
Jones says the plaintiffs haven’t proved that James Fields entered into any agreement with any defendants. Jones shows a picture of Eliott Kline near James Fields at the rally and says “this is the best they have”, calls the plaintiffs’ case a “conspiracy theory” and likens the conspiracy case to a “virus” people would “catch” by standing near Fields.
Jones switches to talking about Hill/Tubbs/League of the South planning for Unite The Right, says none of them were involved on Discord. Says that an email used against Michael Hill was something “no one every though would see the light of day.” The email referenced is the one where Hill mentioned talking to Ike Baker about “on-the-ground planning for Cville…” and mentioned the “Pikeville template.”
“This is the opposite of a violent conspiracy…the ‘Pikeville template’ means non-violent protest…” – Jones
Jones pulls up Michael Hill’s post on the League of the South’s website where he said League members would have to abide by “legal and moral constraints.” Jones says plaintiffs have tried to paint antifa as a “figment of the defendants’ imagination” – he shows a picture of counter-protesters lined up in the street and says “this is what Michael Hill, Michael Tubbs and the League of the South saw when they arrived”…
Jones says “what are all these ‘peaceful protesters’ doing… what is this communist flag doing in the background?” – points out a red bandana, says counter-protesters were “trying to obstruct.. first amendment rights”
Jones mentions Michael Hill’s tweet after Unite The Right that said “our warriors acquitted themselves as warriors” – Jones says it’s “always a risk” for League of the South to protest because “battalions of antifa” “always” oppose them.
Jones says “plaintiffs aren’t telling you the true story… they’re hiding something from you” because jurors “don’t get to see a full video until it’s our turn to introduce evidence… they don’t want you to know what really happened in Charlottesville…”
Jones shows images of counter-protesters, says “we’re still waiting for plaintiffs to call these people as witnesses…” says the woman seen being beaten by League of the South members in a video, and DeAndre Harris, aren’t here to testify. Jones is keen to blame DeAndre Harris for his own beating, telling jurors they haven’t sen the whole video of the incident.
Jones says Charlottesville was not a “one-sided event”, offers as proof for this the fact that plaintiffs didn’t call any police witnesses. Jones likens the plaintiffs’ case to a fishing expedition, saying “an agreement is not a virus that passes unknowingly…between people who walk too close at a rally…There’s no conspiracy of Michael Hill, Michael Tubbs and the League of the South, I’m going to ask you to find for the defense, thank you.”
Bryan Jones is done with his closing arguments.
Next up in closing arguments is Edward ReBrook, lawyer for the National Socialist Movement and former NSM leader Jeff Schoep.
ReBrook calls this case “my Iraq war… and I was in the Iraq war.” ReBrook tells the jury that in 4 days it’s the 50 year anniversary of JFK’s assassination, says that “as a younger man I always believed that his assassination was a conspiracy”, tells a story about himself and his dad taking a road trip to the Grassy Knoll in 2006. ReBrook tells the jury how he wanted to believe that “the mafia or the CIA was involved” in killing JFK.
Judge Moon tells him to stick to this case, ReBrook instantly pivots to talking about James Fields’ car attack and how horrible it was. ReBrook is comparing James Fields’ car attack to JFK’s death by saying both were the product of a “small” man but had a huge impact and there wasn’t actually a conspiracy involved. “Or if there WAS a conspiracy”, he says, his clients weren’t involved.
ReBrook says plaintiffs have tried to paint defendants with a “broad brush” as “the axis of evil.” ReBrook says no connection has been established between James Fields and the other defendants, calls the focus on nazi symbols and ideology “filler.” Says the NSM wasn’t involved in the torch march and wasn’t on Discord (some members like Pete Tefft were in fact involved in both.)
ReBrook says Jeff Schoep insisted on the presence of law enforcement and the NSM didn’t carry weapons – “4 had small plastic shields, 8 had flagpoles…made of light weight PVC.. if these were weapons, why bring half your people unarmed?” ReBrook says “unlike the counter-protesters”…”my clients didn’t cover their faces…because they weren’t planning on doing anything illegal…”
ReBrook says the only communications the NSM had around the rally were for “dress code and parking arrangements” and cites disagreements and distrust between NSM and other groups. ReBrook says that while Jeff Schoep admits punching someone at the rally, that person was white so it doesn’t count as “racially motivated violence.” “No one has come forward claiming that they were hit by Mr. Schoep…”
ReBrook tells the jury that while Schoep did drop his phone with evidence on it in the toilet, that happened 3 months after he was served in the lawsuit and not right away. “Just something to think about…”
ReBrook says this trial is not about the law but is about finding someone to blame for Heather Heyer’s death, says James Fields has already been assigned blame for that and a verdict for the plaintiffs would take away from his blame.
ReBrook asks jurors to consider that police “failed in their duty to protect and serve” during the weekend of Unite The Right and ask themselves why police aren’t defendants in this case. ReBrook repeats allegations of counter-protesters at Unite The Right having weapons, throwing balloons with pee and mystery chemicals in at at the neo-nazis. He says in the face of that, “my clients exercised extreme restraint” and left after police told them to.
ReBrook is done with his closing arguments, Judge Moon declares a 20 minute recess.
Court is getting ready to resume – Joshua Smith, attorney for Matt Heimbach, Matt Parrott and the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP ) will be making his closing argument next.
TWP’s lawyer Josh Smith begins making his closing arguments to the jury – “I’d like to talk about TradWorker…also known as TWP…an FEC-registered political party.. with the motto of “faith family folk” and the slogan “local solutions to the globalist problem”.. founded in 2013…”
Smith says “TradWorker is very explicit…about what they believe…and it has always led to safe, peaceful rallies…” Smith shows a map with dots showing where TWP held “safe and legal events around the country.. for white nationalist causes…” Smith says that wherever TWP goes, “they get followed…there are people who go because they vehemently oppose what white nationalists stand for… and that’s fine but you can’t deprive them of their right to free speech…”
Smith has a slide up titled “Five Key Reasons Why TradWorker Should Prevail”:
“No plaintiff interaction”
“No link with James Fields”
Smith: “there are a lot of red bandanas and that’s important… the color of the bandanas is important”
Smith shows a photo of counter-protesters the morning of August 12, 2017 before TWP & affiliated groups charged into them – “they’re blocking the road”. He claims plaintiff Devin Willis’ chanting “shut it down” that morning meant he was trying to stop protected speech.
Smith says counter-protesters with arms linked “agreed…to prevent the permitted rally-goers from entering the park and thus attending their permitted rally… this is illegal… this is a conspiracy to deprive rallygoers of their First Amendment rights…”
Smith repeats Heimbach’s disproven claim that police told TWP to march up Market Street to get into Emancipation Park for the Unite The Right rally – his slide includes the false claim “TradWorker followed police plan.”
Smith’s current slide also claims Plaintiff Devin Willis “obstructed our assembly.”
Smith moves on to discussing the Friday night torch rally, which he says TWP did not attend. (In fact, several TWP members did not attend although Matt Parrott and Matt Heimbach were absent.) Smith claims TWP shirts seen at the torch rally were bought online by non-members. “If I’m wearing a Metallica t-shirt, that doesn’t make be a member of Metallica, does it?”
Smith reads from Heimbach’s deposition transcript where Heimbach claims to have never taken orders from Jason Kessler or Eliott Kline and claims to know “nothing” about Identity Evropa’s internal command structure.
Smith says TWP has “no link to James Fields” by citing Matt Heimbach’s letter to James Fields in prison that says “we’ve never met…”
Smith starts to say that the FBI searched Fields’ devices and found no links to his client, plaintiffs object and say that material isn’t in evidence for this case.
Smith says TWP was involved in “no agreement to “engage in racially motivated violence” whether formal or informal.
Smith’s current slide: “TradWorker: No Conspiracy”
“-TradWorker were not the organizers
-TradWorker went with an entirely separate plan
-Tradworker’s plan was the permit (underlined)
-Tradworker’s plan was only the permit (only is in italics)
-Tradworker’s plan was successful”
Smith says TWP was “successful” in Charlottesville because they left without any injured members despite the fact that they were involved in fights.
Text of Smith’s current slide:
“TradWorker: No Conspiracy”
“What was the Hard Right?
_More formal membership structure
-More experienced leadership
-More event management experience
-More honest and open politics (less “irony”)
The Hard Right were the Market Street Crew”
Smith goes on to list the member groups of the Nationalist Front that made up the ‘Market Street Crew’ (TWP, League of the South, NSM), saying they were “involved in white nationalist politics for decades.”
Smith’s next slide shows Parrott’s and Heimbach’s faces with the title “Neither Organizer was Implicated in Wrongdoing” – bios he wrote for both call them “pro-white advocates”, the next slide says they “wanted a safe, peaceful event.”
Smith admits Heimbach had adverse inferences found against him by the Judge but says evidence in Heimbach’s custody was actually destroyed by his wife and jurors don’t have to agree with the adverse inferences.
Smith says that “TradWorker isn’t liable here” although “there are unfortunate aspects to this situation.”
Smith says the 5 emails that TWP produced calling for a “peaceful event” (while claiming their other emails were all lost/deleted) “exonerate TradWorker.” Smith says that TradWorker asked members not to bring guns, and says it was good that “no shots were fired that day” (a Klan leader actually did fire his gun that day.)
Smith’s current slide says “TradWorker: Not Liable” and “The Five “Charlottesville Event Coordination” Emails exonerate TradWorker, proving they aimed for Safe, Legal and Fun event.”
(A screenshot of one of the emails takes up most of the slide body.)
Smith is reading the 5 emails out loud now while adding commentary about how great and amazing his clients’ emails were.
Smith mentions the DeAndre Harris beating in the parking garage (TWP member Jacob Goodwin was convicted in the beating) and repeats the false claim that “Harris beat an old man over the head with a mag-lite… DeAndre Harris was going to get beat up no matter what his race was…”
Plaintiffs object to the DeAndre Harris comments, Smith asks for a sidebar, sidebar happens for 1-2 mins. Smith says there is no evidence his clients agreed to engage in racially motivated violence. “There was an agreement to attend a political rally… but that is not wrongful conduct in and of itself. The plaintiffs want to distract you…”
Smith’s current slide about how the conspiracy claims aren’t real is mostly a giant graphic of yellow text reading “Any number x 0 = 0”
Smith is trying to play an old 2017 TWP YouTube video but having tech issues… it starts with a graphic showing black people icons crossing the US-Mexico border to take up a California previously occupied by white people icons. The video features Matt Heimbach talking about sinister Jewish forces trying to destroy Europeans through immigration. The video features sad piano music over black and white photos of black people while Heimbach warns white people are becoming a minority. The video of Heimbach talking goes on as the music becomes more inspirational in its vibe while Heimbach says the removal of confederate monuments is an effort to “destroy us…just like 1984” – “the Jewish power structure is trying to control the future…” The video ends w Heimbach shouting out Vanguard America, League of the South and Identity Evropa and tells viewers to join him in Charlottesville.
Smith says “listen to their words, there’s no code in that” and ends his case after playing the nazi propaganda video in court.
Chris Cantwell (representing himself) is making his closing arguments now.
“I told you at the beginning that I did not conspire to commit racially motivated violence… you already know this because you’ve been paying attention.”
Cantwell lists off events he attended before Unite The Right where “there was no violence.”
Cantwell refers to his podcast episode recorded with Jason Kessler while he was on his way to Charlottesville, says he “discussed with Jason his communications with law enforcement… Jason said he was actively coordinating with them” and promised police protection.
“Somebody who wanted racially motivated violence would find such impediments unwelcome…” – Cantwell
Cantwell refers to his text to Richard Spencer saying he was “willing to risk violence and incarceration” – Cantwell claims that text means he didn’t desire violence or “the incarceration that tends to accompany violence.”
Cantwell says his “desire to cooperate with law enforcement” is proven by the fact he wore a body camera. Refers to his WalMart parking incident when he offered to give his camera’s SD card to police.
Cantwell on antifa coming to his Walmart meetup: “how did these guys find us?”
Cantwell is raising his voice while quoting his own blog where he wrote that he hoped police would “maintain peace and order in the city.”
Cantwell is reading more selections from his blog post about Unite The Right, including a line where he says “civil disobedience and guns do not go well together…” Seems like he may be reading the entire post.
Cantwell says the torch march “was supposed to be a secret… but you heard audio of Jason Kessler saying it was posted to Its Going Down” (he shouts each word of the site’s name emphatically before saying the site is devoted to “violent communist propaganda.”)
Cantwell refers to his body camera video from the August 11 leadership meeting where he says “I want the cops involved” at the torch rally. Cantwell recalls the portion of the bodycam video of the leadership meeting where Eliott Kline/Eli Mosley claimed police told him they were sending extra officers to protect the marchers at the torch rally. Cantwell said he asked about the legality of weapons and armor at the torch rally “because I wanted to obey the law.” Cantwell says regardless of whether Kline/Mosley was lying about talking to the cops or not, “that was the information that was available to me.”
Cantwell repeats claims that he met Azzmador and Thomas Rousseau of Vanguard America for the first time at that leadership meeting shown on his body camera video. He also repeats claims that a Black man could be seen at (more like near) the meeting on his video.
Cantwell says that it is a “mystery” why the shuttle vans for Unite The Right dropped people off a few blocks from the park as opposed to at the park itself. Cantwell is going over the beginning of the torch rally, describing how Eliott Kline organized marchers into lines, says that Kline didn’t tell anyone to commit racist violence that night.
Cantwell loudly recites the numbers of his evidence exhibits when referring to Emily Gorcenski (who he misgenders), repeating his ongoing fixation on Gorcenski during his defense in this case. Cantwell goes on a tangent about “bike lock guy” and says he was afraid of antifa when he didn’t see police that night. “It only takes one bike lock guy.”
Cantwell imitates Gorcenski’s voice and talks about how Gorcenski’s remarks on her Periscope stream “scared me.”
Cantwell mentions his criminal conviction for violence at the torch rally but implies his conviction was not based on true facts. Cantwell names several people he thinks were antifascists that he fought with that night; he’s been keen to focus on them throughout this case.
Cantwell says plaintiffs can’t prove that any violence he engaged in was “racially motivated.”
“Who did you see me fighting? You saw me pepper-spray a white man, you saw me punch another white man…you saw me get pepper sprayed by a white man I just pepper-sprayed…” – Cantwell
Cantwell mentions his body camera was allegedly stolen from him that night, asks why the alleged camera thief didn’t give the missing footage to the plaintiffs in this case. He gets real loud when describing a woman who he claims had a metal baton out at the torch rally.
Cantwell mentions his text message to Eliott Kline where he asked for Kline’s contact at the Charlottesville police so he could talk about fights at the torch rally. Cantwell accuses plaintiffs Devin Willis and Natalie Romero of being dishonest about thinking he may have struck them at the torch rally when he brought them back into court to watch video evidence yesterday. Cantwell is showing that same video from the torch rally, circling and naming various antifascists at the Jefferson statue that he’s been eager to point out throughout this trial.
Cantwell is playing another video exhibit that he has previously claimed showed a counter-protester with a gun (its blurry and pretty hard to see anything.) Cantwell also reiterates his claim that plaintiffs falsely claimed all the counter-protesters at the statue were UVA students.
Cantwell circles someone in the slowed-down video to say “that’s the guy I pepper-sprayed a little ago.. you see me punching this guy…” while claiming the people he assaulted aren’t UVA students. “I don’t need to prove to you that that’s a crime… you can think that’s not ok… that doesn’t help the plaintiffs one bit unless you can prove it’s racially motivated…” – Cantwell after showing the jury video of himself committing violent crimes
Cantwell is playing a portion of Emily Gorcenski’s Periscope stream – “someone is shouting ‘they’re coming up the lawn’ – they’ve got scouts”
Cantwell says “the chants have started because the cameras have arrived, it’s showtime” – draws attention to Gorcenski trying not to film people’s faces in the Periscope video.
Cantwell: “this is a scam, a lie, a trick on you and should upset you – a diversity of tactics…we have the sympathetic victims embedded with the criminal conspirators and they say, oh we’re victims, they’ve hurt us”
Cantwell returns to harping on ItsGoingDown.org and how plaintiff Elizabeth Sines said she followed @IGD_News on twitter. Cantwell is now mocking plaintiffs Devin Willis, Natalie Romero and Elizabeth SInes in a fast, mocking tone that’s hard to follow.
Cantwell is playing Sines’ Facebook live video from the torch rally: “look at how close Ms. Sines is to all these dangerous people..nobody’s a threat to her, she’s not a threat to them, but Ms. Sines appears to be privy to some inside information…”
Cantwell has gone on to complaining about “being maced first thing in the morning” on his way to Unite The Right, says that he was injured.
“I’m walking down the street and some nutcase maces me out of nowhere…I’m screaming and my associates had to drag me into the park terrified” – Cantwell
Cantwell returns to saying he was maced by “communists” and talks about seeing “communist flags” with messages like “solidarity” at the counter-protest. “
I obviously was not here to break the law and all of you know that… I was not active on the Discord… I was not a member of any organization… so perhaps I should just sit down and shut up because I won…” – Cantwell
Cantwell says he is familiar with the legal issues at work in this case “because I make my living by exploiting them” and says the alt-right “will become illegal” if the jury finds for the plaintiffs.
Judge Moon cuts Cantwell off there saying he cant speak out the law outside of this case.
Cantwell returns to yelling at the jury that “there is no conspiracy” and that he just cultivates a “bad boy persona” for “entertainment” purposes. Cantwell quotes plaintiff Devin Willis saying “no one is required to listen to hate speech” asks the jury to send the message that “people who show up to a nazi rally have to listen to hate speech.” Goes through other anti-hate speech statements made by various plaintiffs.
Cantwell yells about how “the plaintiffs in this case…aid and abet …violence”, Roberta Kaplan from the plaintiffs’ legal team asks Judge Moon for a sidebar, sidebar happening now. Sidebar is done.
Cantwell raises his voice talking about plaintiff Reverend Seth Wispelwey’s tweet saying “Jesus is Antifa'”, Cantwell gets quite animated about this point – “Jesus said turn the other cheek, antifa says watch your fuckin back.”
Judge Moon tells Cantwell he’s “about out of time”, Cantwell rapidly mentions counter-protesters having weapons, says “this case is a lie”… Judge Moon tells him he has to wrap it up, he starts talking impossibly fast, “I did not commit racially motivated violence…I’m out of time thank you.”
Karen Dunn from the plaintiffs’ team is making a rebuttal argument now. She pulls up a Facebook post where Cantwell bragged about “bleeding commie filth we sent to the morgue and hospitals” in Charlottesville. Dunn compares this post to Cantwell’s claims he didn’t ratify the violence and Fields’ attack, points out Cantwell’s use of “we.”
Dunn talks about conspiracy as a legal concept – “you can’t just wave your arms and yell there’s no conspiracy.” Reads the law that says “co-conspirators can have lawful and unlawful objectives…if any objective is unlawful than the conspiracy is unlawful.”
Dunn reads the jury instructions that says “all plaintiffs must show is that there was an agreement to cause racially motivated violence”
Dunn: members of a conspiracy don’t have to know each other… all you have to do… is join the conspiracy on one occasion.. all you need for the overt act is one overt at at one time… a single act can be sufficient to draw a defendant within the conspiracy… Dunn says defendants “misled” the jury about the notion of “reasonable foreseeability” – “the law holds co-conspirators liable for all the reasonably foreseeable acts of their co-conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy…”
Dunn: reasonable foreseeability in this case doesn’t require foreseeing a car attack, which by the way they did… this was about raising an army for the cracking of skulls… Dunn shows a 2018 Cantwell podcast quote where he said “this would not have happened if you didn’t have people out there saying let’s go break some fucking skulls…”
Dunn: this is not a hypothetical thing… Natalie Romero actually had her skull fractured… Dunn describes defendant groups using mace, shields and flagpoles as weapons, Eli Kline leading Ben Daley before Ben Daley punched and choked people.. “these acts are just as egregious” in terms of reasonable foreseeability, she says.
Dunn refers to quotes by many defendants and anonymous people on Discord talking about hitting protesters with cars. Mentions Vanguard America leader Dillon Hopper saying Heather Heyer’s death was foreseeable.
Dunn: they tried to argue that James Fields was not part of an agreement and that is not true… the head of Vanguard America testified that Vanguard America invited James Fields to march with them and he accepted… that is an agreement…
Dunn: James Fields is connected to Vanguard America, and Vanguard America is connected to other defendants in this case… Vanguard America was connected to the Nationalist Front… the Nationalist Front was connected by invitation to other defendants such as Jason Kessler… Dunn reminds jurors that Judge Moon found factual findings about Eliott Kline aka Eli Mosley and Robert ‘Azzmador’ Ray ‘ratifying’ James Fields’ attack. Says the jury can find for itself that others who supported Fields after his arrest ‘ratified’ his acts.
Dunn is now going over the verdict form with the jury, says all defendants have been shown to have committed all the alleged offenses.
Dunn points out another part of the verdict form allows for finding that a defendant wasn’t a part of the conspiracy but knew about it & failed to stop it.
Dunn talks about damages on the jury form, says there will be space for compensative damages and punitive damages, says the duplicative damages instruction Fields’ lawyer mentioned doesn’t apply to punitive damages.
Dunn closes by thanking the jury for their patience and consideration, asks them to “please look at the law and apply it to the evidence that you actually saw.”
Arguments in Sines v. Kessler are now OVER. The jury will begin deliberations tomorrow at 9 AM.