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Jury finds white supremacists conspired in deadly Unite the Right rally

Jury finds white supremacists conspired in deadly Unite the Right rally
A federal jury ordered white supremacists to pay $25 million in damages for the violent Unite the Right Rally held August 11-12, 2017. File Photo courtesy of the Virginia State Police | License Photo

Nov. 23 (UPI) -- A federal jury on Tuesday found that white supremacists conspired to take part in intimidation and violence during a 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that left three people dead.

The jury in the civil trial ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on four of the six counts they faced, but deadlocked on two federal conspiracy counts.

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The defendants -- 12 individuals and five white nationalist organizations -- were ordered to pay $26 million in damages for the violent protest. The Washington Post reported that half of that amount must be paid by James Fields, who's serving life in prison for driving his vehicle into a crowd of counterprotestors, killing activist Heather Heyer.

The Unite the Right rally, which was held Aug. 11, 2017, on the campus of the University of Virginia, protested the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park. They carried tiki torches and shouted racist phrases, including "Jews will not replace us."

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There were protests at the park the next day, leading to violence between the white supremacists and counterdemonstrators, during which Heyer was killed.

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A police helicopter that had been monitoring the rally and assisting with then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe's motorcade also crashed, killing two state troopers.

Plaintiffs, who were represented by the non-profit Integrity First for America, sought to hold the organizers of the rally and key participants responsible for the violence that ensued.

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Roberta Kaplan, who represented the plaintiffs, welcomed Tuesday's verdict.

"This verdict sends a clear message that this country does not tolerate racist and anti-Semitic violence and it will not go unanswered," she said.

In addition to Fields, the defendants in the civil trial include prominent white nationalists and self-proclaimed members of the "alt-right," such as Richard Spencer, Christopher Cantwell, Jason Kessler, Elliot Kline, Nathan Damico, Matthew Heimbach, Jeff Schoep, Andrew Anglin, Matthew Parrott and others.

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Josh Smith, an attorney for Heimbach, Parrott and the Traditionalist Worker Party, said he also considered the verdict a success, according to The Daily Progress. He told reporters that according to Supreme Court precedent, he plans to argue that his clients each owe only $11.

"I consider it a huge defeat [for the plaintiffs] who lost to some pro se defendants and solo practitioners," Smith said. "I think they underestimated their opponents."

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Daniel Uria contributed to this report.

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