A former Charlottesville city councilor received a new deposition date this past week after defendants in a Unite the Right lawsuit attempted to sanction him for allegedly missing an earlier deposition.
Sines v. Kessler was filed on behalf of various area residents and alleges a conspiracy to commit racist violence at the 2017 rally. The lawsuit names nearly two dozen white supremacist and neo-Nazi individuals and organizations as defendants.
The civil case has dragged on, in part due to a lack of cooperation from defendants, some of whom have been sanctioned by the court for failing to meet discovery and deposition requirements.
In August, counsel on behalf of defendants Jason Kessler, Nathan Damigo, Matthew Parrott, Identity Evropa and the Traditionalist Workers Party filed a motion to sanction former Councilor Wes Bellamy for failing to show up for a virtual deposition. Bellamy is considered a non-party witness in the suit, meaning he is neither a plaintiff nor a defendant.
Per the motion, Bellamy was subpoenaed by mail in June.
“Defendants mailed a letter to Mr. Bellamy at the address where personal service was obtained directing him to contact the defendants to receive remote meeting credentials or if he wished to re-schedule his deposition date or time,” the defendants’ motion reads. “Though he was properly subpoenaed and personally served, Mr. Bellamy neither appeared for his deposition nor made any other type of legally permitted response.”
Counsel for the defendants asked the court to compel Bellamy to appear for his deposition and to pay them “reasonable expenses incurred in arranging” the July deposition and subsequent motion for sanctions.
On Oct. 2, Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe ordered counsel for the defendants to file a notice of deposition under seal by this past Wednesday. According to the electronic case docket, a sealed notice was filed Thursday.
Bellamy declined to comment on the motion for sanctions or rescheduled deposition.
Though this is the first instance of a party seeking sanctions against a non-party witness in the Sines case, counsel for the plaintiffs has successfully obtained sanctions against multiple defendants, most recently Robert “Azzmador” Ray.
The neo-Nazi podcast host is currently subject to a bench warrant for failing to show for multiple depositions, as well as failing to meet discovery requirements and show up for show of cause hearings.
Earlier this year, defendant Elliott Kline was found to be in contempt of court and was briefly held in custody for failing to meet discovery requirements. Kline purged himself of contempt of court and was later fined more than $6,000 in attorney fees and court costs.
The Sines trial was originally scheduled to begin this month and was expected to last four weeks. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the jury trial has been tentatively postponed to April 2021.
A virtual hearing is currently set for Oct. 30 to argue a motion for summary judgment from defendants Michael Hill, Michael Tubbs and League of the South. The motion alleges, in part, that James Alex Fields Jr., who was convicted of murder in a car attack on the day of the rally, was not involved in a conspiracy with any other defendants.