US appeals court blocks release of white supremacist leader News
Carol M. Highsmith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
US appeals court blocks release of white supremacist leader

A US federal appeals court halted the release of Robert Rundo, an alleged leader of the white supremacist group Rise Above Movement (RAM), on Thursday, reversing a decision by a US district judge in California that had led to his brief release. This decision came following an emergency motion from federal prosecutors, which cited Rundo’s “grave risk of flight as well as a danger to the community” and stressed the need to keep him detained while the appeal of his case’s dismissal was underway.

The emergency motion came in the wake of District Judge Cormac Carney’s ruling, which dismissed charges against Rundo under the Anti-Riot Act—charges that involved RAM’s participation in violent events across California and Charlottesville, Virginia—over selective prosecution concerns.

The Anti-Riot Act, a piece of legislation with roots in the 1960s, was designed to address domestic terrorism while safeguarding legitimate political speech. Intended to target “outside agitators,” this act has been criticized for its potential to infringe upon First Amendment rights. This background colors the current controversy, where the act’s application in Rundo’s case has been challenged as unconstitutionally selective, a claim Judge Carney agreed with.

Specifically, Carney noted that the government declined to prosecute far-left extremist groups who attended the same protests and rallies and allegedly engaged in similar, if not worse, violent acts. His judgment characterized the decision to prosecute Rundo as imbalanced, stating:

The government cannot prosecute RAM members such as Defendants while ignoring the violence of members of Antifa and related far-left groups because RAM engaged in what the government and many believe is more offensive speech.

Moreover, the court acknowledged that while Rundo and his affiliates propagated detestable ideas and likely perpetrated violence warranting prosecution, the underlying issue transcends their individual actions. Carney wrote that the case is “about upholding the free speech and assembly rights guaranteed to all of us.”