Posted on November 23, 2021

‘Unite the Right’ Trial Ends With White Supremacists Paying Millions for Violence

Kelly Weill, The Daily Beast, November 23, 2021

Charlottesville, Virginia, jury on Tuesday ruled that white supremacists engaged in a conspiracy and were responsible for attacks at the Unite the Right rally in 2017.

The decision was a costly one for prominent racists like Richard Spencer, Christopher Cantwell, and Jason Kessler, forcing them to pay a combined millions to their victims. The jury did not reach a decision on two of the case’s largest claims, which argued that defendants participated in a conspiracy to commit racial violence that violated federal law.

The ruling followed 22 days of tense testimony and deliberation over Unite the Right, the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. In their lawsuit Sines v. Kessler, nine victims of Unite the Right filed suit against the rally’s key participants, accusing them of deliberately creating the conditions for a violent, racist event. The defendants, a coalition of 24 far-right groups and individuals, denied those claims in court. {snip}


The jury (11 people instead of 12, after one left mid-trial due to COVID-19 exposure) was asked to rule on six claims against the defendants. The sprawling nature of the case meant that some defendants could be found guilty of certain claims, while others were cleared.

The jury announced on Tuesday afternoon that it could not reach a unanimous verdict on two of the case’s major claims, which argued that white supremacists engaged in a criminal conspiracy to commit racial violence. However, the jury agreed that all defendants engaged in such a conspiracy in a way that violated Virginia civil law. The jury also ruled that defendants had engaged in violence and harassment against plaintiffs.


The Virginia conspiracy finding comes with steep penalties. The jury slapped the case’s individual defendants with $500,000 each in punitive damages, and the groups with $1 million each in punitive damages. Defendant James Fields Jr., who is currently serving life in prison for murdering a counter-demonstrator with his car at Unite the Right, was hit with an additional $6 million in punitive damages.

The case’s conclusion will mean compensation for plaintiffs, who argued that the rally had left them grappling with trauma and huge medical bills. The jury awarded the nine plaintiffs more than $25 million.