On Tuesday, a jury in the U.S. District Court ordered 17 white nationalist leaders and organizations to pay over $26 million in damages for the violence that occurred at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
According to the Associated Press, the jury deadlocked on two key claims but found the accused liable on four additional claims made in the lawsuit. The suit was filed by nine people who were physically or emotionally injured during the deadly demonstrations that took place on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017.
At the time of the rally, hundreds of white nationalists protested against the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
On Tuesday, Attorney Roberta Kaplan said that the plaintiff’s lawyers plan to refile the suit so the deadlocked claims can be decided on by a new jury.
The verdict, however, was met with a mixed response, and White nationalist leader Richard Spencer vowed to appeal.
The “entire theory of that verdict is fundamentally flawed,” he asserted.
Spencer argued that the plaintiff’s attorneys had agreed to use the case to bankrupt him and the other defendants before the trial.
“It was activism by means of lawsuits, and that is absolutely outrageous,” he contended. “I’m doing fine right now because I had kind of accepted in my heart the worst that could happen. I had hope, of course, but I’m not terribly surprised or crestfallen.”
According to the AP, jurors were unable to reach unanimous verdicts on two claims because of The Ku Klux Klan Act. The KKK Act was passed after the Civil War to protect freed slaves from violence and secure their civil rights. Under the federal law, private citizens can sue other citizens for civil rights violations, but that provision is seldom used.
The plaintiffs asked the jury to see that the defendants took part in a conspiracy to carry out racially motivated violence and failed to prevent the violent acts from happening despite knowing the plans. Jurors were unable to agree on those claims.
Jurors did, however, award the plaintiffs $11 million in damages after the defendants were found liable under a Virginia state law conspiracy claim. Two of the plaintiffs were awarded an additional $1.5 million in damages on the claim that five of the rally’s main organizers subjected them to “intimidation, harassment, or violence that was motivated by racial, religious, or ethnic” hatred.
The last two claims were made against James Alex Fields Jr., a neo-Nazi who drove his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters. Fields killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounded 19 others with his car. The jury awarded plaintiffs $6.8 million in physical damages and nearly $6.7 million in emotional damages after Fields was found liable on an assault or battery claim and for intentionally causing emotional distress. Fields is currently serving life in prison for murder and hate crimes.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.