Grand jury indicts 4 California men in connection with violent Charlottesville rally
UPDATE (Oct. 10):
A Charlottesville grand jury has
four men from California on charges connected to the events of Aug. 11 and 12, 2017.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen announced Wednesday that all four have been indicted for conspiring to violate the federal riots statute.
The men are 25-year-old Benjamin Drake Daley of Redondo Beach, 24-year-old Thomas Walter Gillen of Redondo Beach, 29-year-old Michael Paul Miselis of Lawndale, and 24-year-old Cole Evan White of Clayton.
All four men
in California on Oct. 2.
According to a release, the indictment charges each man with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal riots act and one count of traveling in interstate commerce from California to Virginia with the intent to incite a riot, organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry on in a riot, to commit an act of violence in furtherance of a riot, or aid or abet any person inciting and participating in or carrying on in a riot.
The release says the men began associated with a white-supremacist organization that eventually became known as the Rise Above Movement as early as March 2017.
RAM, as the organization is also known, openly identified as alt-right and nationalist. It's members frequently post images and videos of themselves engaging in physical training and mixed martial arts street-fighting techniques along with references to their beliefs.
The indictment says these men also expressed anti-Semitic, racist and white supremacist views and promoted violence against those they believe held opposing views through various social media platforms.
Between March and August 2017, the indictment says RAM and its members traveled to multiple political rallies and demonstrations in Virginia and California where they prepared to and engaged in acts of violence.
The indictment details at least two other occasions involving the four men at political rallies in California on March 25 and April 15.
It alleges the four men purchased plane tickets using debit and credit cards to fly from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Charlottesville prior to the events on Aug. 11 and 12.
They also rented rooms within Charlottesville for the dates of Aug. 11, 12 and 13.
On Aug. 11, all four participated in a torch-lit march on the University of Virginia Grounds that ended in violence in front of the Rotunda.
Then on Aug. 12, they attended the Unite the Right rally in downtown Charlottesville.
In both instances, they are accused of inciting, promoting, or encouraging a riot and committing acts of violence.
Daley, Gillen, Miselis and White made initial appearances in California courtrooms last week.
Daley and Gillen were remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service to be transferred to Virginia.
Miselis was ordered released on a secured bond and home confinement, but that has been delayed pending a government appeal before Judge Norman Moon in Virginia who will make a determination on his eligibility for release pending trial.
White will be in court on Oct. 12 for a detention hearing.
Once all four men have been transferred to Virginia, they will appear before either Judge Joel Hoppe or Moon for arraignment.
Four members of a militant white supremacist group from California have been arrested on charges they traveled to Virginia last year to incite a riot and attack counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally that turned deadly, court documents unsealed Tuesday say.
The defendants — Benjamin Drake Daley, Michael Paul Miselis, Thomas Walter Gillen and Cole Evan White — are part of the Rise Above Movement, which espouses anti-Semitic views and meets regularly in public parks to train in boxing and other fighting techniques, according to an affidavit.
The affidavit alleges the four men were "among the most violent individuals present in Charlottesville" on Aug. 11 and 12 of last year. It says photos and video footage shows they attacked counterprotesters, "which in some cases resulted in serious injuries."
The men have also taken part in "acts of violence" at political rallies in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, California, and other places, the affidavit alleges.
"These guys came to Charlottesville in order to commit violent acts, and it wasn't the first time they'd done it," U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said at a news conference held to announce the charges.
The four have been arrested and are awaiting their initial hearings, according to another court filing in the case. It wasn't immediately clear if they have attorneys who could comment on their behalf.
According to The Anti-Defamation League, Rise Above Movement members believe they are fighting against a "modern world" corrupted by the "destructive cultural influences" of liberals, Jews, Muslims and non-white immigrants. Members refer to themselves as the mixed martial arts club of the "alt-right" fringe movement, a loose mix of neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other far-right extremists.
"They very much operate like a street-fighting club," said Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism.
Segal said the group has roots in the racist skinhead movement in southern California.
Daley, of Redondo Beach, figures "prominently" in the organization, according to the affidavit.
The arrests come more than a year after hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville in part to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Clashes first erupted on Aug. 11, 2017, as a crowd of white nationalists marching through the University of Virginia campus carrying torches and chanting racist slogans encountered a small group of counterprotesters.
The following day, more violence broke out between counterprotesters and attendees of the "Unite the Right" rally, which was believed to be the largest gathering of white nationalists in at least a decade. Street fighting exploded before the event could begin as scheduled and went on for nearly an hour in view of police until authorities forced the crowd to disperse.
Later, a woman was killed when a car prosecutors say was driven by a man fascinated by Adolf Hitler plowed into a crowd of peaceful counterprotesters. The death toll rose to three when a state police helicopter that had been monitoring the event crashed, killing two troopers.
The suspected driver, 21-year-old James Fields Jr., of Maumee, Ohio, has been charged with federal hate crimes in the death of Heather Heyer, 32. Fields also faces state murder charges; his trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 26.
President Donald Trump sparked a public outcry after he blamed both sides for the violence.
An independent report released three months later found serious police and government failures in responding to the mayhem.
Over the past year, there have been numerous state-level trials against individuals involved in the rally, including
The press conference on Tuesday will take place at the United States Federal Courthouse in Charlottesville, where United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Thomas Chadwick will announce the latest charges.