The League of the South, a white supremacist organization, and two of its leaders argued during a Friday virtual hearing that they did not participate in violence during the weekend of Aug. 12 and should be dismissed from a federal conspiracy lawsuit.
The organization, along with leaders Michael Hill and Michael Tubbs, is among the defendants in a broad lawsuit filed by Charlottesville area residents against organizers and participants in the 2017 Unite the Right rally. The lawsuit, filed just a few months after the rally, alleges the defendants conspired to commit racist violence against Black and Jewish people.
Friday, during a virtual hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, attorney Bryan Jones argued a motion for summary judgment that would see the League, Hill and Tubbs dismissed from the lawsuit.
The bulk of Jones’ argument centered on claims that none of the three defendants were involved in the two major incidents of injury that weekend: the Aug. 11 torch march on University of Virginia grounds and the Aug. 12 car attack by fellow defendant James Alex Fields Jr.
The League, Hill and Tubbs were not part of the torch rally, Jones argued, and Hill sent an email prior to the rally clarifying that the League would not be participating but would be sending two observers. Any members of the League who attended the torch rally did so in their individual capacities and not as representatives of the group, he argued.
“Because my clients did not have any involvement in the torch march, the plaintiffs who suffered injuries as a result of the torch march cannot recover from my clients,” he said.
Jones further argued that the his three defendant clients have no connection to Fields and although Fields is pictured alongside fellow defendant Vanguard America on Aug. 12, there is “no evidence that he had any connection to Vanguard before this.”
“The evidence so far is that Fields acted alone and, as far as we know, there’s no evidence that he communicated with any of the other defendants in the rally,” Jones said. “Simply put, the evidence simply shows that he attended the rally.”
Arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, attorney Alan Levine’s response lasted around an hour, outlining the alleged connections between the three defendants and the conspiracy to commit racist violence that the plaintiffs’ case rests on.
Per Levine’s arguments Tubbs, who leads the League’s Florida chapter, is seen in video evidence committing violence at the rally alongside his co-conspirators.
Over the course of his response, Levine picked at a variety of evidence filed on behalf of the plaintiffs. According to Levine, some of this evidence shows that Hill assisted in planning the rally, both at events and via the online platform Discord and is therefore involved in furthering the conspiracy to commit racist violence.
“Hill solicited participation of the League of itself members several times, your honor, but the one that’s most expressive, I submit, is exhibit 90, where the Hill said ‘If you want to defend the South, and Western civilization from the Jews, and his dark-skinned allies, be at Charlottesville on 12 August,’” Levine said. “Hill didn’t just solicit his own League of the South members to participate, he also solicited participation from the members of the Nationalist Front, including the National Socialist Movement.”
Levine went on to argue that the torch march was intended as part of the weekend from the beginning and was explicitly mentioned in Discord organization chats.
As far as the day of the event, Levine argued that actions taken by Florida League member Tyler Davis during the assault of DeAndre Harris also show further evidence of the conspiracy.
Davis, who is not a defendant in the lawsuit, is among four individuals to be charged and sentenced for the assault on Harris and is currently serving a two year sentence. Davis is among the defendants in a federal lawsuit from Harris which has stalled in recent months.
In response to the defendants’ arguments about Fields, Levine claimed that Thomas Russo, leader of Vanguard America and fellow member Dylan Hopper both testified in their depositions that Fields was a member of their group. During the defense response, Jones would describe this description of Russo and Hopper’s depositions as a mischaracterization and urged Judge Norman K. Moon to look at the transcripts.
Jones again argued that his clients did not participate in the torch march and claimed that the march and rally the following day were two separate events with separate goals.
“If plaintiffs’ conspiracy theory is accepted by the court then somebody who simply showed up at the rally on Saturday, August 12 as a member of some organization would be liable,” Jones aid. “They’re on the hook as a co-conspirator for whatever occurred the day before and that is simply not an accurate statement of what is legally qualifies as a conspiracy.”
Following argument, Judge Moon ended the hearing without indicating when he anticipated he would issue a ruling. No other hearing are currently scheduled and the case is tentatively set to begin an estimated four-week jury trial in April.