Jury finds Unite the Right liable for more than $26 million in damages

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A jury in the federal civil trial said Tuesday that it could not reach a verdict on two federal conspiracy claims.

“We are thrilled that the jury has ruled in favor of our plaintiffs, finally giving them the justice they deserve after a horrific weekend of violence and intimidation in August 2017,” said plaintiffs attorneys Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn .

“Today’s decision sends a loud and clear message that facts matter, laws matter, and that the laws of this country will not tolerate the use of violence to deny fundamental rights to racial and religious minorities. All share to live free and equal citizens.”

A defense lawyer called the verdict a victory.

“It’s a politically charged position. It would be difficult to get 11 people to agree,” said attorney Joshua Smith, representing the three defendants. “I consider the hung jury a victory given the inequality of resources.”

Events around August 11–12, 2017 saw white nationalists and supremacists marching through Charlottesville and the University of Virginia campus, chanting “Jews will not replace us,” “You will not replace us” and “Blood and Soil, A phrase evoking Nazi philosophy on ethnic identity.

The violence – which surrounded a rally protesting plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee – reached a climax when James Alex Fields Jr., who was protesting the removal of the statue, drove his car through a crowd of protestors, injuring dozens and killing the 32-year-old. heather hair,

Some of the most prominent figures of the alt-right – Jason Kessler, Matthew Hembach, Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell – were among the defendants.

Despite the large jury award, the question remains whether the plaintiffs will see much of that money. Fields, who was found liable for nearly half of the $26 million, is serving multiple life sentences. Some of the other defendants – individuals and white supremacist organizations – have indicated they are financially stressed.

Millions in damages

A jury awarded $11 million in punitive damages to plaintiffs over a Virginia conspiracy claim. Each defendant is liable for $500,000 each. The five organizations are liable for $1 million each.

The jury awarded the plaintiff only $7 in compensatory damages.

In general, compensatory damages compensates (or in whole) the injured party for their loss or injury. Punitive damages are considered punishments when the defendant’s behavior is found to be particularly harmful, such as if the defendant intentionally engaged in willful misconduct.

For claim four, defendants Kessler, Spencer, Cantwell, Elliot Kline and Robert “Azmador” Ray were found liable to punitive damages of $200,000 each. Plaintiffs Natalie Romero and Devin Willis were awarded $250,000 each in compensatory damages.

In the same claim, the jury also found Fields liable, but awarded no damages.

It found Fields liable for $12 million in total punitive damages for claims five and six. Juries awarded $803,277 in compensatory damages to five plaintiffs for assault or battery claims. On the second claim, the jury awarded $701,459 in compensatory damages.

Fields, serving multiple life sentences in prison, did not testify at trial, but was represented by a lawyer.

Some criminal cases resulted from events surrounding the rally—including the state and federal convictions of Fields, who is serving a multiple life sentence for Heyer’s murder—but not the Justice Department’s mass trial organizers under Trump. Were. Biden Administration.

The trial sought long-awaited results

The civil trial in federal court sought to impose consequences on those who planned the rally and Fields for those he injured or traumatized when driving his Dodge Challenger into a crowd.

But even before the trial, the plaintiffs had won in some ways due to national outrage over the violence. Richard Spencer halted his public speaking tour and called the case “financially crippling”. Jeff Schaep and Hembach renounced white supremacy and stopped publicly organizing white power activity.

Schaep led that group for more than two decades in the National Socialist movement, which was attributed to a black civil rights activist who died shortly afterwards. Identity Avropa, one of the groups named in the suit, rebranded under a new name twice before disbanding.

Fourteen people and 10 white supremacist and nationalist organizations were named in the trial, which prompted the trial, but some were not involved in the verdict because they did not show up for court and were the subject of default judgment.

In closing arguments last week, lawyers representing the plaintiffs told the jury that the defendants were prepared for the “Battle of Charlottesville” and that messages sent between them and their actions following the violence were evidence of a conspiracy.

Defense attorneys and two high-profile defendants representing themselves contended that none of the plaintiffs had proved that the defendants had organized racial violence.

CNN’s Mark Morales reported from Charlottesville and Steve Almasi reported and wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Aya Elamrousi and Amir Vera contributed to this report.

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