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Charlottesville plaintiffs each seek $ 3 million to $ 10 million in damages as lawsuit draws to a close

In their closing remarks Thursday, lawyers for the nine people suing a group of white nationalists for the violent “Unit the Right” rally asked jurors to award each plaintiff between $ 3 million and $ 10 million, according to the law. severity of their injuries.

Four plaintiffs were hit by James Alex Fields’ gray sedan on August 12, 2017, when he sped into a group of counter-protesters who were found to support diversity and inclusion in the face of right-wing hatred – killing one of them. Fields was tried and convicted of murder in 2019, sentenced to life imprisonment and over 400 years.

He is now part of the large civil lawsuit now underway, which aims to punish around two dozen individuals and groups accused of helping to organize “Unite the Right” in an effort to deter future extremist events like this. . The case, which took place in federal court, is supported by the nonprofit Integrity First for America.

Each of the plaintiffs is suffering from “some form of PTSD” as a result of the events of this weekend, lawyer Roberta Kaplan said Thursday.

Kaplan asked the jury to reward Marcus Martin, Natalie Romero, Thomas Baker and Chelsea Alvarado – all of whom were hit by the car are damaging between $ 7 million and $ 10 million. For the other five, the jury was asked to consider awarding between $ 3 million and $ 5 million each.

Martin was struck and thrown into the air after taking a moment to push his fiancée, the complainant Marissa Blair, out of the path of the vehicle at high speed. Baker also suffered serious injuries requiring hip surgery when the car knocked him over. Romero now lives with scars on his face and head from the incident.

But the “Unite the Right” rally had derailed before it had even officially started. The night before, hundreds of men marched through the University of Virginia campus in loose formation carrying brightly lit tiki torches to a statue of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the school. A group of people, mostly AVU students, had formed a circle around the statue during a counter-demonstration. The tiki-torch walkers surrounded them, chanting alternately: “You will not replace us” and “The Jews will not replace us!”

Complainant Devin Willis said he was afraid of being killed. Someone had thrown an unknown liquid at him, which he feared was a lighter fluid that could potentially ignite in the sea of ​​torches.

A team of lawyers, led by Kaplan and Karen Dunn, spent weeks arguing their case, which uses a 19th-century law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act that was enacted to deter violence against Black Americans as a result of the Civil War.

Among the accused is Jason Kessler, the man who obtained a permit from the city for a “Unite the Right” event on August 12. months of preparation.) Other defendants include prominent white nationalists like Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell, who have each been forced to represent themselves because they cannot hire lawyers. A number of groups that defend a white ethno-state have also been named.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have been tasked with proving that the long list of defendants was engaged in a violent plot motivated by racial and anti-Semitic hatred. On their side is a vast array of digital evidence – texts, emails, phone call logs, chats from the communication platform Discord – showing the planning and preparation for “Unite the Right”.

“All of these leaders have brought their troops to battle,” Dunn told the jury on Thursday.

For two and a half hours, she and Kaplan conducted their case at home, alleging that the defendants were aimed at luring counter-protesters to their event so that they could provoke physical attacks and retaliate with disproportionate force. Dunn read a message from neo-Nazi Jeff Schoep: “I hope they crash our party. ”

“The evidence in this case is crystal clear that this plan went as planned,” Dunn said. She pointed to the gleeful reactions to the car attack that killed Heather Heyer, 32, from some on the accused’s side, such as when racist podcaster Christopher Cantwell called it “bleeding dirt.” that we sent to the morgue ”.

But Dunn cautioned jurors not to be numbed to the ugly language heard in court, saying repetition is a tactic used by extremists to normalize hatred – the more you hear it, the less shocking it becomes.

Many defendants have argued that not all of them were in contact, or even knew each other before August 2017. However, claimants do not have to prove that every defendant knew each other to win. Fields, Dunn argued, was driven by the same racist and anti-Semitic ideals as everyone else, even though he drove from Ohio on his own.

Spencer began his closing remarks by complaining that the trial looked like a “character assassination” after lawyers for the plaintiffs again brought up a particularly racist screed, and he ended his remarks by bickering with Judge Norman K. Moon on a quote from Donald Trump.

The defendants also urged the jury to consider the right to free speech, stressing that it covers unpopular beliefs.

“In this country you have the right to love Hitler,” said a lawyer for Schoep.

Kaplan and Dunn clearly seemed to anticipate the argument, dismissing it altogether during their final presentation.

“There is no license to commit violence,” Kaplan said.

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The Huffington Gt

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