A neo-Nazi podcaster and fugitive has again been sanctioned by a federal judge in a major rally lawsuit.
Robert “Azzmador” Ray received sanctions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe in the form of authenticated evidence on Sept. 23, deeming authentic all documents, photos and videos from a number of Ray’s social media accounts.
Specifically, the evidence authenticated by Hoppe’s order established fact in the case that Ray “entered into an agreement with one or more co-conspirators to engage in racially-motivated violence in Charlottesville, Virginia” on August 11 and 12, 2017; that Ray “was motivated by animus against racial minorities, Jewish people, and their supporters when conspiring to engage in acts of intimidation and violence”; that “it was reasonably foreseeable to Ray and intended by him that co-conspirators would commit acts of racially-motivated violence and intimidation”; and that Ray “ratified the racially-motivated violence” after Unite the Right.
Filed on behalf of various Charlottesville-area residents in the wake of the deadly Aug. 12, 2017 Unite the Right rally, the Sines v. Kessler lawsuit targets more than a dozen key participants and organizers. The suit accuses the defendants of conspiring to plan racially motivated violence at the rally, as well as the torch rally on University of Virginia grounds the night before.
The long-winding suit has seen several defendants sanctioned for withholding documents via something called allowance of adverse inference jury instructions. This means that meaning plaintiffs’ counsel will be allowed to tell a jury that they can interpret the defendants’ actions were done in bad faith.
Even among those sanctioned, Ray stands out due to his apparent disappearance and fugitive status — both for a criminal warrant stemming from the Aug. 11 torch rally and a bench warrant for contempt of court for a failure to comply last year. Ray is also accused in the lawsuit of helping plan the torch rally, which drew worldwide condemnation in its wake due to the violence and hate speech spewed by participants.
The plaintiffs’ latest sanction filing requested that the court find it factual that Ray committed acts of intimidation and violence in furtherance of a racist conspiracy and deem authentic pieces of evidence including documents, photographs and videos.
Among those pieces of evidence are screenshots of messages sent via the communication service Discord, where Ray was “an active participant on the Southern Front server, where he recruited Unite the Right attendees, instructed them on equipment to bring, and made explicit his violent intentions for the weekend.”
Hoppe’s sanctions were applauded by representatives for the plaintiffs.
“Today’s decision establishes key facts that are at the core of our plaintiffs’ case. ‘Azzmador’ Ray was central to the racist, violent conspiracy in Charlottesville four years ago – and this ruling will have an enormous impact in proving that conspiracy at trial next month,” said Amy Spitalnick, director of Integrity First for America, the group bankrolling the lawsuit. “No matter how these defendants flout accountability, our team is committed to bringing them to justice.”
“Ray has made clear that he will not comply with this court’s discovery orders even under threat of monetary sanctions, civil contempt, arrest, and detention,” Hoppe wrote. “Appropriately tailored evidentiary sanctions will still allow Ray to defend himself at the upcoming civil trial if he wants to and will not have an impermissible ‘spillover’ effect on any defendant who did not disobey a discovery order.”
Hoppe’s memorandum opinion also includes details of Ray’s background, including his work for the Daily Stormer blog, a hate-site for which he wrote and published articles.
According to Hoppe’s opinion, which cited from available evidence, Unite the Right featured prominently on the Daily Stormer website and staff produced their own poster advertising the event, urging followers to “Join Azzmador and The Daily Stormer” in Charlottesville on August 12 “to end Jewish influence in America.”
Ray and fellow defendant Andrew Anglin encouraged Daily Stormer readers to bring as many people as possible to the rally, Hoppe wrote, claiming that there was “a rising nationalist movement in America and it is not going away.” The call additionally argued that having “thousands of nationalists come out for this rally will put the fear of god into the hearts and minds of our enemies.”
Additionally, Hoppe wrote that two articles posted on the Daily Stormer website instructed followers to bring tiki torches, pepper spray, flag poles, flags and shields. Using the Daily Stormer website, Ray helped organize the torch rally on UVa Grounds and instructed participants to bring the now infamous tiki torches.
Despite ostensibly being a “secret rally,” word got out and around 30 counter-protesters showed up at UVa grounds, Hoppe wrote, and were attack by the torch ralliers, including Ray.
“Ray shouted, ‘The heat here is nothing compared to what you’re going to get in the ovens!’” Hoppe wrote, citing evidence. “He later proclaimed that the marchers ‘went through [the counter-protestors] like shit through a goose!”
Ray, now on the lam, could not be reached for comment.
In June 2018, a grand jury in Albemarle County indicted Ray on one count of maliciously releasing a gas during the August 11 torch rally. Ray is still listed as a fugitive in publicly available Virginia court records.
The Sines v. Kessler is scheduled to begin on Oct. 25 in Charlottesville’s federal court and could last as long as four weeks.