AP NEWS
ADVERTISEMENT

White nationalist wants Charlottesville lawsuit tossed

February 4, 2018 GMT

Richard Spencer can’t find a lawyer.

The white nationalist and progenitor of the “alt-right” movement submitted a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit against him and other leaders involved in August’s deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The violence, which led to dozens of injuries and the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, isn’t Spencer’s fault, he claims in the motion filed Tuesday, which he apparently wrote and signed himself.

The blame falls on the anti-fascists, or Antifa, who showed up to protest his and his cohorts’ ideas, and on the police, who Spencer claims did too little to discourage the violence, he wrote.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Harsh and bold words, as well as scuffles, are simply a reality of political protests, which are, by their very nature, contentious and controversial,” the 39-year-old wrote. “Free societies, not only in the United States but around the world, accept this as a cost of free assembly and maintaining a vibrant political culture.”

No lawyer in Virginia will take Spencer’s case, he wrote, decrying that the plaintiffs’ well-heeled attorneys seek only to financially cripple him and his fellow defendants with expensive depositions and discovery requests.

“Spencer, by contrast, has searched for legal help and has not been able to find a lawyer in Virginia to take his case, despite the supposed but apparently illusory ethical obligation lawyers have to represent unpopular clients and to assure at least a semblance of a fair trial,” he wrote.

“Massive, expensive, drawn out, and invasive discovery will in itself be a huge in theorem victory for the plaintiffs, and probably the only realistic victory they hope to achieve, given the indigence of the defendants.”

Attorneys in the past have tried to take down white supremacists via the courts. In 2008 — years after the Southern Poverty Law Center secured multimillion-dollar verdicts in lawsuits targeting an Aryan Nations leader, the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the United Klans of America — the center’s president said a lawsuit against two Ku Klux Klansmen sought to bankrupt the hate group.

“Our lawsuit seeks justice and compensation for the victim of this brutal hate crime. We also hope that the monetary damages will be sufficient to put the organization out of business and send a strong message to other hate groups and their followers that this type of racial violence will not be tolerated,” SPLC president Richard Cohen told CNN at the time.

ADVERTISEMENT

High-profile attorneys Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn, who are representing the Charlottesville plaintiffs, said in filing their lawsuit in October that they wanted an injunction barring Spencer and his ilk from staging more rallies in Charlottesville, as well as justice for the plaintiffs “whose lives were ruptured in this horribly dramatic and gruesome way,” Kaplan said.

“As of now, very few of them are able to return to tranquility and safety that many of us have taken for granted. ... We’re hoping to give them back their peace,” she added.

In his motion to dismiss, Spencer refers to the civil suit as “lawfare” — an attempt to silence speech and financially damage controversial figures. He further characterizes the desired injunction as an attempt to “intimidate defendants from ever again stepping outside the narrow confines of political orthodoxy.”

While the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant’s right to an attorney, it does not generally apply to civil litigation.

Spencer claims he was a speaker and participant, not an organizer, of the Unite the Right rally, and all of his actions surrounding the event are protected by the First Amendment’s free speech clause, he wrote.

He cites the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson, which protected flag burning as speech, and Snyder v. Phelps, which protected the hateful speech of Westboro Baptist Church members who picketed military funerals with signs asserting God hates members of the LGBT community.

In pointing a finger of blame at police, Spencer quotes a city-commissioned study that found, “The Charlottesville Police Department was ill-prepared, lacked proper training and devised a flawed plan for responding to the white supremacist rally.” –– (CNN)

ADVERTISEMENT