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Cantwell to remain a defendant in rally lawsuit

In the same week he was found guilty of a rape threat, white supremacist Christopher Cantwell was denied his request to be dismissed from a rally lawsuit by a federal judge.

Cantwell, a self-identified white nationalist, attracted national attention for his role in the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally. With various rally organizers and participants, Cantwell is named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed on behalf of various Charlottesville-area residents.

Wednesday, Senior U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon denied Cantwell’s request to be dismissed, the second such request he has made since the suit was filed in 2017.

Moon wrote that his dismissal was in response to a request Cantwell made in a “letter of status” filed in February. Moon pointed to a similar motion that was denied in 2018 in denying the most recent request.

In the letter, which Cantwell wrote from a New Hampshire jail, he described the lawsuit as “frivolous,” and accused the plaintiffs of attempting to “spy, slander, and torment their critics and political opponents.”

“The Court will deny Cantwell’s motion as an improperly filed successive motion to dismiss filed without leave of Court, as well as for the reasons set forth in the Court’s prior opinion that denied Cantwell’s and other Defendants’ earlier motions to dismiss,” Moon wrote. “His request for the Court to sanction Plaintiffs for their ‘meritless’ filings is also denied.”

The denial comes during a busy week judicial week for Cantwell, who, according to court records, was found guilty Monday by a New Hampshire federal jury of threatening to rape the wife of a man who was part of a racist group he felt was harassing and bullying him.

According to the The Associated Press, Cantwell faces up to 22 years in prison and will be sentenced Jan. 4. He will remain in Strafford County jail in New Hampshire until then.

Cantwell is currently representing himself in the Charlottesville lawsuit after his attorneys dropped him as a client in 2019, citing his inability to pay and difficulties with his conduct. Prior to the departure of his attorneys, Cantwell had been accused by the plaintiffs of making “unlawful threats” against their lead attorney, Roberta Kaplan.

As Cantwell’s motion was denied, defendants Jason Kessler, Nathan Damigo, Matthew Parrott, Identity Evropa and Traditionalist Workers Party have filed a motion to exclude an expert report from two professors on behalf of the plaintiffs.

In a September motion, attorney Elmer Woodard argued that the expert testimony would confuse or mislead the jury and “impermissibly states as fact that the defendants did what the plaintiffs accuse them of doing.”

“The professors, however, have chosen to explicitly tell the jury that the defendants conspired to and did intentionally use violence to achieve their political goals and that the defendants are lying, pursuant to a pre-UTR plan to do so, when they offer alternate and legally innocent explanations of the same rhetoric and processes,” Woodard wrote. “These explicit factual and legal assertions, with barely an “in our opinion” spliced in among them, spill the banks of what the law allows and must be kept away from the jury.”

Woodard ceded that it would be permissible for the expert report to present a historical review of white supremacist language and similarities of defendants’ rhetoric “then let the attorneys take it from there.”

The motion has yet to be ruled on by the court.

U.S. Marshals continue to seek defendant Robert “Azzmador” Ray after a bench warrant was issued for his arrest in September. The warrant was granted after the neo-Nazi podcaster failed to show up for multiple depositions.

Ray is also considered a fugitive in Albemarle County after failing to turn himself in when a warrant was issued for his arrest in June 2018 following a grand jury indictment on a charge of illegally using tear gas during the Aug. 11, 2017, torch rally at the University of Virginia.

Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley said he is aware of the Ray situation but declined to comment on whether his office planned to pursue the charge.

The rally lawsuit is tentatively set for a four-week trial in April 2021.


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