Colin Moynihan, New York Times, October 22, 2019
Two members of the far-right Proud Boys were each sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday by a State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan who criticized their participation in a “political street fight” last year on the Upper East Side.
The defendants, Maxwell Hare and John Kinsman, were among ten men who prosecutors said attacked four people protesting a speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club by the Proud Boys founder, Gavin McInnes.
The masked protesters, who did not cooperate with the police, were believed to be self-described anti-fascists.
In the sentencing, Justice Mark Dwyer said the punishment was meant in part to deter others who seek to turn political differences into partisan street brawls.
“I know enough about history to know what happened in Europe in the 30s when political street brawls were allowed to go ahead without any type of check from the criminal justice system,” he said.
The brawl, which took place on East 82nd Street near Park Avenue, was seen by many as mirroring similar clashes between right and left in places like Berkeley, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Charlottesville, Va.
Both defendants were convicted in August of attempted gang assault, attempted assault and riot. Seven others charged in the incident pleaded guilty.
In court on Tuesday, a prosecutor, Joshua Steinglass recommended that Justice Dwyer sentence Mr. Hare and Mr. Kinsman to five years in prison, saying “violence meant to intimidate and silence” should have no place in society.
The defendants apologized for their actions. Mr. Hare, 27, who initiated the attack last October, said: “I made a mistake that night.”
Mr. Kinsman, 40, whom a prosecutor had called “the single most vicious of all the attackers,” said: “I regret the entire incident.”
After the clash, Facebook and Instagram banned the Proud Boys and Mr. McInnes announced that he was quitting the group, saying it had been unfairly connected to white nationalists and white supremacists, while adding that “such people don’t exist.”
Mr. McInnes, who co-founded Vice Magazine, had promoted his appearance at the Republican club by saying he would re-enact the 1960 murder of a Japanese socialist leader by a teenage ultranationalist.
The night before the event, hooded figures broke windows at the club and left behind fliers promising future attacks and labeling Mr. McInnes a “hipster-fascist clown.”
As Mr. McInnes spoke inside the club, protesters outside chanted “No Nazis, no K.K.K., no fascist U.S.A!” Police directed departing Proud Boys away from the crowd, telling them to walk down Park Avenue.
A handful of black-clad protesters, some wearing masks, went around the block to intercept the Proud Boys, the police said.
Mr. McInnes and defense lawyers said the protesters attacked the Proud Boys. But a surveillance video obtained by The New York Times contradicted those claims, showing that the protesters had halted 100 feet away from the Proud Boys on Park Avenue and that Mr. Hare had first walked and then run toward them.
As Mr. Hare charged, one protester threw a plastic bottle that sailed past him, the video showed. Within moments, videos showed, a crowd of Proud Boys surrounded the protesters and began punching and kicking them.
The four victims of the beating refused to speak with the police and were never identified; an indictment referred to them as Shaved Head, Ponytail, Khaki and Spiky Belt. Because the four did not testify, the defendants were charged with attempted assault, which requires evidence of intent to cause injury, rather than assault, which requires evidence of injury.
During the trial, defense lawyers suggested that the authorities sympathized with the protesters and had not tried to track them down. Mr. Kinsman’s lawyer, Jack Goldberg, referred to prosecutors with the district attorney’s office as being part of the “district Antifa office.”
Although Mr. McInnes had distanced himself from the Proud Boys and was not involved in the trial, prosecutors repeatedly tied him to the group, calling him a “hatemonger” who had encouraged violence and made racist comments.
Without victims to put on the stand, the prosecutors leaned heavily on video from multiple sources that showed the attack from various angles. They also introduced into evidence a video created by a Proud Boy member, Christopher Wright, that showed others in the group, including both defendants, exulting after the attack or reprising their parts in it.
Mr. Hare and Mr. Kinsman both took the stand, testifying that they had been intimidated by the protesters outside the Republican club, whom they believed to be menacing hooligans, and had fought only in self-defense.
The defendants portrayed the Proud Boys as a fraternity for like-minded friends. Mr. Hare said they were “a group of blue collar men who love America.” Mr. Kinsman said he had joined at his wife’s urging to find “drinking buddies” and considered Mr. McInnes to be “a regular conservative dude.”
And Mr. Kinsman testified that he had attended a “fake news” protest outside of the CNN offices in Manhattan and taken part in a rally in support of Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defense League, an anti-Islam and anti-immigration movement known for violent street actions.