A lawyer for white supremacists who attended the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year says his clients were just joking about hitting protesters with cars in leaked chat logs from before the rally.
White supremacists on Thursday argued to toss a civil lawsuit against Unite the Right’s key players. Nine of the lawsuit’s ten plaintiffs say they were injured during the rally, where a man who marched with a neo-Nazi group rammed a car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing one and injuring more. The white supremacist defendants named in the lawsuit claim it wasn’t their fault that the rally turned violent.
But lawyers for the plaintiffs pointed to the white supremacists’ own memes and chat logs in the days leading to the rally. Lawyers say the rally’s organizers planned the event in an invite-only chatroom, where participants for violence including using cars to mow down opponents.
“I know [North Carolina] law is on the books that driving over protesters blocking roadways isn’t an offence … sure would be nice,” a person using the name “Tyrone” wrote in Unite the Right’s invite-only planning chatroom less than a month before the August 12 rally.
Tyrone posted a picture of a combine harvester labeled “multi-lane protester digestor” and followed up to clarify that he was not kidding.
“Is it legal to run over protestors blocking roadways?” he wrote. “I’m NOT just shitposting. I would like clarification. I know it’s legal in NC and a few other states. I’m legitimately curious for the answer.”
“Tyrone” was revealed in April to be Michael Joseph Chesny, an active-duty Marine stationed in North Carolina. He was dismissed from the Marines that month. But his posts, and others suggesting vehicle attacks and violence, remain central to the case against Unite the Right’s organizers.
“They were talking about weaponry, violence, running over protesters, what are the best brands of mace,” Roberta Kaplan, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs said on Thursday. “This was not some loving, peaceful flower-in.”
Kaplan’s team claims the defendants conspired to commit violence. Their case points to a number of posts in which Unite the Right organizers appeared to call for violence in the lead-up to the rally.
“Well, we can’t bring guns or weapons, so we have to use shields,” one planner wrote others in June. “And a real man knows how to make a shield a deadly weapon.”
“Studies show 999/1000 n—ers and feminists fuck right off when faced with pepper spray,” another wrote.
“I have no real social media,” a third wrote. “I’m ready to crack skulls without doxx.”
But lawyer for the defendants, who moved Thursday to toss the case, claimed the pre-rally posts were just “babbling” between friends, and do not amount to conspiracy.
“They didn’t conspire to run anybody over,” lawyer James Kolenich said Thursday. “Now, they babbled about it a lot. That’s reckless at worst. But that’s not enough to sustain this particular legal claim.”
Some defendants, including white nationalist Richard Spencer have struggled to find representation in the case. But Kolenich, who is representing a number of defendants, has something in common with his clients.
“My willingness to get involved [with the case] is to oppose Jewish influence in society," he told Cincinnati.com earlier this year, adding that he believed white people were the New Testament’s “chosen people” and that some Jews are trying to turn the U.S. into a third-world country by allowing immigration. Kolenich told Cincinnati.com that he got involved with the case after his friend James Condit Jr. (a failed politician who blames 9/11 on Jews) put him in touch with the defendants.
Kolenich’s co-counsel is Elmer Woodard, who has previously launched failed defenses of white supremacists who attended Unite the Right. Famous for wearing “Ebeneezer Scrooge-styled mutton chop whiskers” and a straw boater hat to court, Woodard has previously made headlines for attempting to argue that his client had a condition that lead him to have sex in his sleep, which caused the client to sexually assault a 15-year-old girl. (The client was found guilty.)
A judge is expected to rule on the defendants’ motion to dismiss within a month.
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