A US District Court jury in Virginia decided Tuesday that 17 white nationalist leaders and organizers of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville are liable for more than $26 million in damages. The jury concluded that the organizers engaged in conspiracy to intimidate, harass or harm prior to the rally.
In August 2017, white nationalists and supremacists marched through Charlottesville and the University of Virginia campus. During the rally to protest the removal of a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, James Alex Fields Jr. sped his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring dozens and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The plaintiffs were nine town residents and counter-protestors who suffered physical or emotional injuries during the rally. Among the defendants are prominent white nationalist figures including Jason Kessler, Matthew Heimbach, Richard Spencer, and Christopher Cantwell.
The jury found defendants liable under a Virginia state law conspiracy claim, but could not reach a verdict on two federal conspiracy claims. Five of the main organizers of the rally were found to be liable under a claim that the subjected two plaintiffs to intimidation, harassment or violence motivated by racial, religious or ethnic animosity. The jury found Fields liable for the remaining two claims that were decided.
“We are thrilled that the jury has delivered a verdict in favor of our plaintiffs, finally giving them the justice they deserve after the horrific weekend of violence and intimidation in August 2017,” plaintiffs’ attorneys Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn said. They also stated that they plan to refile the suit so a new jury can decide the two deadlocked federal conspiracy charges.
“It’s a politically charged situation. It’s going to be hard to get 11 people to agree,” said attorney Joshua Smith, who represented three defendants. “I consider a hung jury to be a win, considering a disparity of resources.”