Ex-KKK Leader Ordered to Hand Over Charlottesville Emails

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

(CN) – Overruling the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard’s objections, a federal judge in Louisiana ordered David Duke to produce his communications with the organizers of last year’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“While some burden may be imposed upon movant in responding to these requests, I cannot conclude that his burden or expense is outweighed by the likely benefit to the truth-finding objective of requiring production,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson Jr. wrote Thursday in his order issued in New Orleans federal court.

Duke must turn over the emails and other correspondences by June 18.

The subpoena relates to discovery in a lawsuit pending in Charlottesville federal court.

There, the plaintiffs allege organizers of the Aug. 11-12, 2017, march conspired and put on a “series of violent and threatening demonstrations” that left three people dead and many others injured. Counterprotester Heather Heyer and two Virginia State Police officers were killed at the rally.

The plaintiffs in the Virginia case say the organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally caused them to suffer physical injuries, emotional harm and violations to their constitutional rights. And buried within Duke’s communications lie insights into that alleged conspiracy, they claim.

“Although Duke is not a named defendant in the Western Virginia case,” Wilkinson wrote in the order, “he is specifically indentified in plaintiffs’ first amended complaint as a co-conspirator with the named defendants who allegedly participated himself in the coordination, planning, fund-raising for and execution of defendants’ activities in Charlottesville that are the basis of the lawsuit.”

In a memo supporting his motion to quash the subpoena, Duke argued that handing over all the times he or someone communicating with him mentioned Charlottesville would be too monumental a task.

He said it would require listening to the “hundreds of hours of radio programming” he produces every year and combing through the 46 gigabytes of text data that comprise Duke’s “email client [list].” (Brackets in original.)

Duke further argued the search “would take many lifetimes of effort, and no search could identify the references sought by plaintiff with any degree of certainty.”

But Judge Wilkinson rejected Duke’s argument, calling his objections “hyperbolic.”

“The particularity of each request makes a focused, keyword search of Duke’s database of responsive materials reasonably able to be accomplished,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiff need only make a reasonable keyword-phrased, good faith search, using the particularly described dates, events, occurrences or persons identified in each request, and produce those materials uncovered by such a focused keyword search.”

Wilkinson also narrowed the scope of the subpoena so that it covered about six weeks before the event, setting a time frame of June 1, 2017, to the present.

“Six weeks before these dates to the present is a reasonable time period during which to address the systematic planning and coordination of the events and their aftermath allegedly involving defendants and Duke,” the order states.

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