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[BREAKING] Jury Reaches Partial Verdict in Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ Trial

[BREAKING] Jury Reaches Partial Verdict in Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ Trial

Nine people injured during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, are entitled to financial compensation, a jury declared Tuesday. But the jury only reached a partial verdict, as they couldn’t agree on the most serious claims that the defendants — about two dozen white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and key organizers — engaged in a “conspiracy to commit violence” as defined under federal law. The case, known as Sines v. Kessler, was the first major lawsuit in years to be tried under the so-called Ku Klux Klan Act, a rarely used federal law codified after the Civil War. It was installed to diminish the power of white supremacists and protect African Americans, prohibiting discrimination for voting and other rights.

The jury of 11 deliberated for over three days following four weeks of testimony in the civil trial in a federal court in Charlottesville. The plaintiffs, all from Charlottesville, described broken bones, bloodshed, and emotional trauma resulting from the riot. The defendants, some self-described racists and white nationalists, argued they were exercising their First Amendment rights in organizing and participating in the rally.

[Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]
Among the evidence were text messages, social media posts, and conversations on Discord, an online chat platform, in which organizers discussed and meticulously planned the two-day event, which turned deadly when James Alex Fields Jr., an Ohio man who revered Hitler, rammed his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer, a civil rights activist. Dozens were also injured in the car attack, including four of the plaintiffs.

 

In making its decision, the jury had to find that the defendants, which include Jason Kessler, the lead organizer of the rally, and Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right,” entered into a conspiracy to commit violence. But the jury was deadlocked in the first two claims: a federal “conspiracy to interfere with civil rights” and “action for neglect to prevent.”

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The jury also agreed to a range of punitive damages on the other claims, including assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, awarding more than $25 million for the plaintiffs.

[This is a breaking and developing story, please check back for updates]

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