The author of what has been called the official manifesto of the 2017 Unite the Right rally has become the seventh man to be named among those indicted for participating in the torch-lit march across University of Virginia Grounds the night before the deadly rally.
Rare for those charged, Augustus Sol Invictus, who was born Austin Mitchell Gillespie, has been granted bail.
“I feel pretty good,” his attorney Terrell N. Roberts III told The Daily Progress after emerging from Albemarle County Circuit Court Tuesday afternoon. “He didn’t intend to harm anybody here.”
The Florida-based 39-year-old has a history of denouncing egalitarianism, denying the Holocaust,and calling for the fall of the federal government. He once conceded that he killed a goat and drank its blood as part of a ritual.
In court, however, his lawyer focused on other parts of his background.
“This man is a well-educated, articulate individual who holds a law degree from DePaul University,” said Roberts. “He’s not a rabble-rouser; he’s very thoughtful, very intelligent.”
Roberts noted his client’s status as a family man, a father to seven including two boys, ages 4 and 6, who had been attending daily Catholic mass with Invictus.
“He is a great father,” wrote the boys’ mother in an affidavit filed with the court urging her ex-husband’s release.
The court file was replete with other letters and affidavits attesting to the character of Invictus and urging pretrial release.
“This arrest has caused his law practice to falter,” said Roberts. “If he were to flee, there would be all kinds of trouble to his law license, so that’s not happening.”
However, prosecutor Lawton Tufts attempted to keep the focus on Aug. 11, 2017, the night that hundreds of White nationalists shouted racist slogans such as “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” as they marched across UVa Grounds wielding flaming torches.
“I really don’t have much concern that he will appear,” said Tufts. “The bigger concern is that he is a danger.”
Tufts said that videos showed the fire-toting crowd chanting angrily.
“This is 300 people with torches surrounding about a dozen people,” said Tufts. “Watching the videos is terrifying.”
While Tufts didn’t mention the Charlottesville manifesto, which named race as the leading signifier of a person’s identity, he did mention a 2013 letter in which Invictus vowed to launch a second civil war.
“To characterize him as not a rabble-rouser is surprising,” said Tufts.
While never actually opposing bail, Tufts noted that two instances of alleged domestic abuse were lodged against Invictus, although both sides in Tuesday’s hearing agreed that neither prosecution — one in Florida and the other in South Carolina — resulted in a conviction.
A decade after changing his name to the Latin for “majestic undefeated sun,” Invictus ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Florida and released a YouTube video entitled “A Call for Total Insurrection.” There, one can hear his tales of alleged persecution delivered in his distinctive mid-Atlantic accent, a vocal style employed by actors such as Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn during Hollywood’s golden age.
“Do you know why artists are allowed to say and do whatever they like?” Invictus asks in the video. “It’s because they are impotent.”
The Albemarle courtroom gallery got to hear that voice Tuesday when the shackled defendant with his high-and-tight haircut heard the prosecutor discussing one of his past criminal charges.
“Not a single word of that is true,” interjected Invictus.
“You cannot interrupt,” admonished Judge Cheryl Higgins. “And you need to let your attorney make your objection.”
That attorney is no stranger to high-profile cases involving the far right. He raised over half a million dollars to represent the estate of Ashli Babbitt, the U.S. Capitol stormer shot to death on Jan. 6, 2021, when hundreds of former President Donald Trump’s supporters overran security to interrupt the election of Joe Biden. He also represented a man who allegedly cross-checked an officer that day with a Confederate flag attached to a lacrosse stick.
In court Tuesday, Roberts gave a hint of the defense he’ll bring to the Albemarle trial of Invictus, which the prosecutor suggested would include witness statements and videos shot on Aug. 11, 2017.
“We’re not trying the case today,” Roberts told the court. “But what I see is protected First Amendment activity.”
In the end, Higgins let Invictus post a $7,500 bond and return to Florida. She forbade him from any contact with his alleged victims, banned him from possessing a firearm, demanded weekly contact with Offender Aid and Restoration and limited his travel to court appearances and visits to out-of-state children.
She set the jury trial for three days beginning March 20, 2024.
Virginia has no statute of limitations on felony charges. A conviction under Virginia’s law banning burning as intimidation — written to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from burning crosses to terrorize Black people — can carry a sentence up to five years.