CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CN) – Lawyers for the victims of a violent rally two years ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, have asked a federal judge to stop a high-profile white nationalist from threatening them or their clients online.
Christopher Cantwell is one of many defendants in a civil lawsuit blaming the event’s violence on alt-right, neo-Nazi and other white nationalist groups. Over 30 people were injured at the Aug. 12, 2017, rally and one counterprotester, Heather Heyer, was killed.
Cantwell, who hosts white nationalist podcasts and is well-known in hate group circles, earned the nickname “the crying Nazi” from a tear-filled rant after the rally in which he wept about learning he had a warrant out for his arrest.
The so-called Unite the Right event took place after Charlottesville announced its intention to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a centrally located public park. Members of several hate groups descended on the small college town, hosting a torch-lit march on campus the night before. The next day ended with a bloody row that has left the town shaken to this day.
President Donald Trump famously said there were good people “on both sides,” and his continued unwillingness to condemn white nationalism has been seen as a catalyst for Cantwell and others who, despite criminal and civil prosecution, continue to share hate-filled messages digitally.
In a motion filed Tuesday, attorneys for the rally victims pointed to some of those online conversations Cantwell and others had in recent months that they say will encourage more violence and harm their clients’ case.
Among the cited conversations were comments posted on a story about one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Roberta Kaplan, which highlighted her past legal work fighting to legalize same-sex marriage.
“After this stupid kike whore loses this fraudulent lawsuit, we’re going to have a lot of fucking fun with her,” Cantwell wrote, according to the motion filed in Charlottesville federal court.
The filing goes on to say Cantwell has a history of violence made clear by his role in organizing the Unite the Right event. Days after the rally, he was charged with one count of malicious bodily injury by means of a caustic substance and two felony counts of illegal use of tear gas.
Cantwell, a New Hampshire resident, served no jail time and instead took a plea deal on lesser assault charges, which banned him from coming to Virginia for five years.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys argue Cantwell’s continued online threats pose a danger not only to Kaplan, but to the rally victims and the case as a whole.
“Plaintiffs have a right to a fair trial, but that right will be jeopardized if their counsel continues to be subject to unlawful threats from the defendants.” The motion states. “Indeed, Cantwell may well be making such a threat precisely to imperil that right. The court need not, and indeed should not, wait for Cantwell to act on his words.”
Requests for comment from Cantwell’s attorney, Elmer Woodard of Blairs, Virginia, were not immediately returned, but Cantwell told the Associated Press that the lawsuit is a “fraud” and Kaplan “is literally claiming that our ‘ideology’ caused someone else to commit a crime, and that I am somehow liable for this.”
James Alex Fields Jr., the Ohio man who drove to the Charlottesville rally and used his car to barrel through a crowd of counterprotestors, killing Heyer, was sentenced last week to life in prison on hate crime charges.