Six More Defendants Settle Lawsuit Brought After “Unite the Right” Rally

May 16, 2018

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Three militia groups and their commanding officers who participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last August have resolved the claims against them in a lawsuit originally filed last October by the City of Charlottesville, local businesses, and neighborhood associations, by agreeing not to return to Charlottesville to engage in coordinated armed activity during rallies and protests.

The Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia, New York Light Foot Militia, III% People’s Militia of Maryland, and their commanding officers, Christian Yingling, George Curbelo, and Gary Sigler, all entered into consent decrees filed today in Charlottesville Circuit Court before Judge Richard E. Moore. Under the terms of the consent decrees, the defendant militias and their leaders are “permanently enjoined from returning to Charlottesville, Virginia, as part of a unit of two or more persons acting in concert while armed with a firearm, weapon, shield, or any item whose purpose is to inflict bodily harm, at any demonstration, rally, protest, or march.”

This brings to 11 the number of defendants who have entered into consent decrees resolving the claims against them in the lawsuit, which is aimed at preventing the types of violence that occurred at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting alt-right groups and private militias that attended the rally from returning to the city to engage in unlawful paramilitary activity in violation of Virginia’s Constitution and state statutes. Two alt-right organizations and their leaders—the League of the South, Michael Tubbs, and Spencer Borum; and the National Socialist Movement and Jeff Schoep—previously reached similar agreements that were approved by Judge Moore in March and April of this year. The consent decrees have the force of court orders.

“The consent decrees entered into by these militias and their commanders provide exactly what the plaintiff neighborhood associations, businesses, and the City sought in this lawsuit—an order preventing these groups from coming back and functioning as private armies outside the control of state authorities,” said Mary B. McCord, senior litigator at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, which, along with local counsel from the Charlottesville law firm MichieHamlett, represents the plaintiffs.

“Although these three militia organizations claim that they intended to function as peacekeepers, Virginia law—like that of many states—does not permit private military organizations to operate outside the comprehensive state-law requirements for using organized force or projecting a willingness to do so,” McCord said.

According to the lawsuit’s amended complaint, the militia organizations that entered into the consent decrees filed today took up positions at Emancipation Park on August 12, where the alt-right organizers had planned a rally ostensibly to protest the removal of a controversial Confederate statue. The militia members carried assault rifles as they stood guard in combat boots, military-grade body armor, and, in most cases, camouflage uniforms, confusing residents and observers who mistook them for authorized military personnel. Regardless of their stated intentions, these private militias operated wholly outside the realm of public accountability, usurping the role of legitimate law enforcement in violation of Virginia law.

“Plaintiffs are gratified that these militia leaders and organizations, as well as the alt-right organizations and their leaders that have entered into consent decrees, have voluntarily agreed to the injunction sought in this lawsuit without the need for protracted litigation,” said McCord. “Plaintiffs have offered and remain willing to enter into similar consent decrees with the remaining defendants.”

Of the 25 defendants named in the lawsuit, Jason Kessler, Elliott Kline, Matthew Heimbach, Traditionalist Worker Party, Vanguard America, and Redneck Revolt remain as defendants actively litigating the case. Several other defendants are in default—meaning they failed to respond to the complaint—and plaintiffs are seeking default judgments against them. Two defendants have not been served.

A hearing on motions to dismiss filed by the actively litigating defendants is scheduled in Charlottesville Circuit Court on June 12, 2018. A hearing on plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, to be filed in early June, is scheduled for July 5–6, 2018, also in Charlottesville Circuit Court. The Plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction to enable the court to reach a decision before the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally, when defendant Jason Kessler has threatened to hold another rally at Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park.

“The entry of consent decrees involving many of the defendants in this case will help avoid a repeat of the violence we saw in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017,” said local counsel Lee Livingston of MichieHamlett. “Our city, its businesses, and neighborhoods should not be a battleground for mostly out-of-state organizations to engage in conduct that threatens public safety.”

The law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is also assisting with the lawsuit.