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Post-trial deadlines again extended following Cantwell motion

It’s not over, yet.

More than four years after the violent and deadly August 2017 Unite the Right rally that spawned it, the Sines v. Kessler federal lawsuit will see another month-long delay as defendants file a flurry of post-trial motions.

The prolific federal lawsuit, which went to trial in November, sought to hold organizers and key participants of the Unite the Right rally and preceding University of Virginia torch march responsible for the weekend’s violence.

Ever since it was filed soon after the rally in 2017, the lawsuit was plagued by delays due in no small part to a large number of uncooperative defendants.

More than four years after the rallies, the case went to trial in November and the plaintiffs claimed victory after the 11-person jury found that the defendants had engaged in a conspiracy, as defined by Virginia law, and imposed more than $26 million in fines.

However, the case has lived on due to a lack of a jury verdict on two key federal conspiracy charges and a series of post-trial motions from defendants, namely Chris Cantwell.

So far, defendants Cantwell, Jason Kessler, Nathan Damigo and Identity Evropa have filed motions to reconsider.

Well-known for his violent and racist political rhetoric, Cantwell was unable to find representation prior to trial and acted as his own attorney during the month-long trial in Charlottesville’s federal court.

Because Cantwell is currently serving a multiyear sentence for crimes unrelated to the lawsuit, he has repeatedly argued that he is at a disadvantage. At one point, he requested a separate, delayed trial.

In several recent motions, Cantwell requested that the deadline for post-trial filings be extended by a year, giving him enough time to serve out the remainder of his sentence. The request was opposed by plaintiffs’ counsel Roberta Kaplan, who argued that Cantwell should not be granted a delay that he previously declined to accept.

Striking something of a compromise, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe extended filing deadlines by approximately a month. That allows defendants to file motions and supporting memoranda by March 9.

Opposition memoranda will now be due on April 6 and reply memoranda on April 20.

“Further requests for extensions of time are strongly discouraged,” Hoppe wrote.

It remains to be seen what will come of the post-trial motions and whether the plaintiffs will seek to re-try the defendants on the two conspiracy counts for which the jury did not reach a verdict.


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