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Rally lawsuit dismissed without prejudice

A lawsuit filed on behalf of DeAndre Harris, a counter-protester who was assaulted at the 2017 Unite the Right rally, has been dismissed without prejudice after a federal judge ruled that facts alleged were insufficient to indicate there was a conspiracy to violate his civil rights.

The dismissal is likely only temporary, as Senior U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon granted Harris leave to amend his complaint within 21 days in an effort to allow his counsel to file an amended lawsuit that includes sufficient factual allegations against the defendants.

Filed in August 2019 in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Harris’ lawsuit names nearly three dozen defendants, including lead-UTR organizer Jason Kessler, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, Harris’ six attackers and various white supremacist individuals and organizations.

The suit alleges that the defendants — specifically Kessler and Spencer — created a conspiracy to deny black and Jewish people equal protection under the law, leading to the physical assault on Harris.

After languishing for months, defendants League of the South, Michael Hill and Michael R. Tubbs became the first defendants to file a response in January.

Hill, a founding member of the neo-Confederate group, and Tubbs, a Florida-based leader, jointly filed a motion with the League of the South to be dismissed from the complaint. The defendants claim that no factual allegations within the complaint point to actions they did to encourage violence.

In a memorandum order issued Monday, Moon agreed that the facts alleged were insufficient and pointed to a similar rally lawsuit — the Sines v. Kessler case — which he cited as an example of how to properly allege claims of a conspiracy to commit violence.

“The paucity of allegations in this complaint, especially concerning Movant-Defendants, stands in sharp contrast to the extensive allegations in the Sines v. Kessler complaint,” Moon wrote. “Almost half of the 25-page complaint in this case is comprised of one-paragraph summary descriptions concerning each of the 35 defendants.”

Moon wrote that the complaint only alleges that League of the South is a white supremacist group that advocates Southern secession; that Hill is its co-founder and president and Tubbs is its “Chief of Staff”; that “Tubbs is captured on video from August 12 ordering League of the South to attack by yelling ‘charge!’”; and that a co-defendant tweeted after the rallies that “It was an Honor to stand with U all in C’Ville this weekend.

Notably absent are any factual allegations that any of the Movant-Defendants “entered into an agreement with a specific co-conspirator to engage in racially motivated violence at the August 11th and 12th events,” Moon wrote.

Moon also addresses concerns with how the complaint addresses Harris’ attackers.

Harris’ complaint details the assault he suffered in the Market Street Garage, a video of which has been viewed millions of times. Six men were implicated in the attack and four — Daniel Borden, Tyler Davis, Jacob Goodwin and Alex Ramos — have since been arrested on malicious wounding charges and convicted.

Goodwin and Ramos tried unsuccessfully to appeal their convictions and are currently serving eight- and six-year prison sentences, respectively. Borden and Davis accepted plea agreements, meaning they cannot appeal their convictions.

Two men remain unidentified and are still under investigation by the Charlottesville Police Department.

Moon wrote that the complaint “offers few if any factual allegations” to show if the actions of Borden, Ramos, Goodwin and Davis show they entered into an agreement with any other alleged co-conspirator to assault on Harris or engaged in racist violence.

Additionally, Moon wrote that the allegation that Tubbs was captured on video “ordering League of the South to attack by yelling ‘charge!’” is missing context as to where it occurred and what the effect was.

Though Moon granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss the complaint, he wrote that the court will afford Harris “the opportunity to amend his complaint to attempt to remedy these pleading deficiencies noted, among any others he may identify as concern these or other defendants.”

The amended complaint must be filed within 21 days of Nov. 30.


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