Federal judge issues thousands of dollars in penalties for Unite the Right rally participants

Federal judge issues thousands of dollars in penalties for Unite the Right rally participants
Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville (FILE) (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A federal judge is handing down thousands of dollars in penalties on some people and groups that took part in the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in 2017, because they are still not cooperating with evidence discovery in a civil lawsuit.

Vanguard America, Elliott Kline, and Matthew Heimbach must now pay a combined $41,300 in attorney fees to the plaintiffs legal team for disobeying court orders. Kline will pay $12,528.33, Heimbach will pay $12,528.33, and Vanguard America will pay $16,243.33.

The judge’s opinion handed down Tuesday, May 26, in the Sines V. Kessler case said the defendants consistently ignore orders.

Victims of the violence, which broke out during the white supremacist march on University of Virginia grounds on August 11th and around a downtown Charlottesville park, filed this suit against those they say coordinated to cause chaos and violence. It was the first federal civil lawsuit filed following the 2017 events and accuses the defendants of conspiracy and negligence.

Trial is scheduled for October 2020.


Integrity First for America release, Tuesday, May 26:

CHARLOTTESVILLE PLAINTIFFS WIN SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL PENALTIES AGAINST NEO-NAZI DEFENDANTS IN IFA’S SUIT

Court Grants Plaintiffs’ Request for Attorney’s Fees, Following Sanctions Win Against Neo-Nazi Defendants Matthew Heimbach, Elliott Kline (aka Eli Mosley), and Vanguard America.

CHARLOTTESVILLE – This morning, a federal court ordered three neo-Nazi defendants to pay $41,300 in penalties following a motion filed by plaintiffs in Sines v. Kessler, the landmark federal lawsuit backed by Integrity First for America (IFA) against the individuals and groups responsible for the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” violence. Today’s decision follows the court sanctioning those same defendants last August, just days before the second anniversary of the violence they orchestrated.

Matthew Heimbach, Elliott Kline (aka Eli Mosley), and Vanguard America were primary organizers of the violence over August 11 and 12, 2017. The lawsuit details how the violence was meticulously planned for months in advance, including via the online chat platform Discord. Trial is scheduled for October 2020.

Heimbach, Kline, and Vanguard America have so flagrantly violated court-ordered discovery obligations that the plaintiffs moved for sanctions, which were granted in August 2019.

The court had also left the door open to even harsher sanctions depending on the defendants’ future compliance with their discovery obligations. Kline has already faced subsequent consequences this winter – including jail time and another $5,800 in monetary sanctions– for contempt of court; there are additional pending sanctions motions against Heimbach and Vanguard America for continuing to violate discovery orders and destroying evidence. In the opinion issued today, the federal court found that Heimbach must pay $12,528.33; Kline must pay $12,528.33; and Vanguard America must pay $16,243.33 as sanctions for disobeying court orders that directed them to provide or permit discovery of key evidence in the lawsuit. As the court explained in today’s decision, “My prior Memorandum Opinion details what Kline, Heimbach, and Vanguard America (through Mr. Hopper) did—or, more accurately, did not do—in this case over the next sixteen months. For now, it is enough to say that each Defendant disobeyed at least four separate orders to provide or permit discovery of materials within his control ‘while the litigation slowed and everyone else’s costs piled up.’ Those orders set out clear step-by-step instructions how Defendants could ‘make good their discovery obligation[s]’ by deadlines repeatedly extended. Yet, their ‘consistent “practice from the very beginning [was] to ignore outright the court’s orders or submit chaotically and defectively to them.”’”

“These neo-Nazi defendants have tricked every trick in the book to avoid responsibility for the violence they orchestrated. Our team is committed to holding them accountable. These sanctions make crystal clear that there will continue to be serious financial and legal penalties for their actions – and mark yet another key step forward in holding these white supremacists to account,” said Integrity First for America Executive Director Amy Spitalnick.

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Integrity First for America (IFA) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to holding those accountable who threaten longstanding principles of our democracy—including our country’s commitment to civil rights and equal justice. IFA is backing the landmark federal lawsuit against the two dozen neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate groups responsible for the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville. Trial is scheduled for October 2020. To learn more about the case, click here.

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