A former member of a white supremacist group who attacked antiracist protesters during the weekend of the Unite the Right rally will serve the remainder of a prison sentence on home electronic monitoring.
During a virtual hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on Friday, Cole Evan White received a lesser sentence than his co-defendants did last year, due in large part to his cooperation with authorities.
White, 26, was among four members of the California-based white supremacist Rise Above Movement indicted in October 2018 on one count each of conspiracy to violate the federal riots act and one count each of traveling from California to Charlottesville with the intent to “incite a riot, organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry on in a riot, to commit an act of violence in furtherance of a riot, or aid or abet any person inciting and participating in or carrying on in a riot.”
Unlike the other three defendants, White pleaded guilty not long after the indictment and, after serving approximately seven months in prison, was released on bond in May 2019.
White’s co-defendants — Benjamin Drake Daley, Thomas Walter Gillen and Michael Paul Miselis — received 37-month, 33-month and 27-month prison sentences, respectively.
Daley and Miselis unsuccessfully appealed their case to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on the basis that the riot charge violated their constitutional rights.
During Friday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh said the government requested a lesser sentence due to White’s cooperation, which would have included testifying against his co-defendants, had their cases gone to trial.
“Mr. White immediately accepted responsibility for the physical violence that his group and he himself committed on that day, he did not seek to minimize that at all,” Kavanaugh said. “Furthermore, he made clear what his intent and what the intent of the group members was, which would have been crucial had the case proceeded to trial all the other defendants ultimately pled guilty.”
The government additionally asked for a lesser sentence due to testimony White would have given that would have assisted the prosecution not only of his co-defendants but in the case of Daniel McMahon.
McMahon, a white supremacist internet commenter from Florida, was sentenced in August to more than three years in prison for making racist internet threats against Charlottesville activist Don Gathers and an unnamed woman.
According to Kavanaugh, White would have testified that the phrase “diversity of tactics,” used by the RAM co-defendants and McMahon was a euphemism for violence.
“White was familiar with the ideology that was used by white supremacists and people online and knew the context surrounding that phrase,” he said. “In order for the government to be able to prove that the phrase, as it was used in that case, was a true threat, Mr. White’s testimony would have been critical.”
Kavanaugh also emphasized that White did not request that his cooperation be hidden from the public, as is the case in many criminal cases.
“He wanted the individuals who were online and lurking and holding extreme views to know that he is no longer someone who ascribes to those views and who has left that life in the past,” he said.
White’s attorney, Michael T. Hemenway, requested a sentence between 12 and 14 months, citing his client’s cooperation and remorse.
Prior to sentencing, White spoke, telling U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon that he was no longer the man he was in 2017.
“The seven and a half months I spent in jail allowed me to become a better person and to know what’s important in life and I’m hoping to be able to move forward with this chapter of my life and continue to be the better person that I am today,” White said. “Words can’t express the guilt and embarrassment I have for being a part of something so destructive.”
Moon sentenced White to 14 months in prison, with credit for time served. Seven months will be served on home confinement with five months credit for time he has already served on home confinement. With credit for the seven months he already spent in prison, White will serve just two more months on home confinement.
Despite the existence of evidence that White struck an antiracist protester with a torch during the August 11, 2017 march on University of Virginia grounds, the court did not apply a weapons enhancement to White’s sentence, citing a failure to do so in the co-defendants’ cases.