Plaintiffs in rally lawsuit have filed motions to compel discovery from several neo-Nazi defendants, including James Alex Fields Jr.
Plaintiffs in the Sines v. Kessler lawsuit recently filed motions to compel documents, devices and online credentials from Fields, the National Socialist Movement and Robert “Azzmador” Ray, alleging the defendants have ignored their requirements.
All three are among the more than a dozen defendants who organized or attended the Aug. 12, 2017, Unite the Right rally who are named in a lawsuit, Sines v. Kessler, filed on behalf of a number of Charlottesville-area residents by Integrity First For America.
In recent months, counsel for the plaintiffs have ramped up their efforts to compel discovery ahead of the October trial date. Several defendants have been accused of dodging their discovery requirements and defendant Elliott Kline was even briefly jailed for failing to comply.
Fields, who was the subject of a motion to compel last month, also faces requests for sanctions from the plaintiffs. According to the latest motion to compel, Fields admitted to destroying correspondence between himself and fellow defendant Vanguard America.
“That plainly and admittedly spoliated evidence was critical to this case because, among other things, it would have directly refuted both Fields’s and Vanguard America’s claims that they had never communicated, nor been associated with each other — a key element of the conspiracy,” the filing reads.
Because Fields is serving multiple life sentences in prison for the Aug. 12, 2017, car attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured dozens, the plaintiffs are asking in part for the jury to be informed that he knowingly destroyed responsive documents and that they can draw adverse inferences.
Counsel for the plaintiffs has accused NSM of using underhanded tactics to avoid discovery in a motion filed Wednesday.
NSM’s current leader, Burt Colucci, confirmed the group had sat on responsive documents for months without turning them over and had failed to disclose numerous responsive electronic devices and social media accounts, according to the motion.
“Plaintiffs have fewer than five months in which to take depositions of more than 20 Defendants, prepare Plaintiffs for their depositions, and take third-party depositions,” reads the motion. “Plaintiffs have already waited for two years for NSM to produce responsive documents. They should not be made to wait any longer while NSM continues its express strategy of intentionally withholding all documents.”
Ray, a writer for the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer blog, is similarly accused of withholding responsive items, including “compelling” footage of the rally he shot via livestream.
According to the plaintiffs’ motion to compel, Ray has refused to turn over a second laptop and a second cellphone and has not disclosed credentials for various social media and web accounts, including for the Daily Stormer.
“Ray has disparaged the discovery process and, at several points, has disappeared from the litigation altogether,” the motion reads. “To date, Ray has still not only failed to produce podcasts and videos regarding Unite the Right that are in his possession, but he also refused to turn over numerous devices and account credentials that he had previously disclosed to plaintiffs.”
Feb. 5 was the deadline to produce discoverable documents and devices.
“These defendants have tried every trick in the book to avoid accountability for the racist violence they brought to Charlottesville. Our plaintiffs have made clear they won’t let them — winning critical sanctions motions and fighting to ensure they can’t skirt liability,” said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First For America. “We’re committed to doing what’s necessary to hold these neo-Nazis, white supremacists and hate groups accountable for their actions.”
None of the defendants has filed responses yet to this latest round of motions.
It remains unclear what effect, if any, civil continuances caused by the coronavirus pandemic will have on the case’s October jury trial.