White Nationalist Wins $5 in Charlottesville Defamation Case

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)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CN) – A white nationalist who helped organize last summer’s Unite the Right rally which ended in the murder of a counter protester, was awarded $5  from another protester who he claimed cursed him out in public.

In his lawsuit, Jason Kessler, a 34-year-old Charlottesville native and self-proclaimed white nationalist, claimed Donna Gasapo, began hurling insults at him as he held a news conference outside the city courthouse.

Kessler claimed that by shouting “F— you” and “murderer” and “crybaby,” Gasapo was inciting violence while also violating a 68-year-old Virginia law related to defamation.

Heather Heyer, 32, was murdered during the 2017 Unite the Right Rally. James Alex Fields, 27, is accused of driving his car into a crowd of people which lead to Heyer’s death. He’s also facing federal hate crime charges due to white nationalist content he posted on Facebook ahead of the event.

In an order released Friday, Charlottesville General District Court Judge Robert Downer Jr. agreed with Kessler saying, according to the Daily Progress newspaper, “Gasapo is free to make statements of rhetorical hyperbole. But … he believed her words did threaten to breach the peace and could have incited the addressee to fight.”

Downer awarded Kessler $5 for the infraction.

Kessler took to Twitter after the ruling was announced.

“The point of suing for ‘insulting words’ isn’t to get rich but to show normal people that they have recourse in the civil courts system to fight back against the harassment tactics of the radical left,” he wrote. “A normal person would have made much more money than me as a public figure.”

In an interview with the Daily Progress, Gasapo’s attorney Pam Starsia said she saw the low dollar amount of the award as proof the judge understood Kessler was not damaged by Gasapo’s actions, though she expressed fear around what impact this case could have on future forms of expression.

“I think we should all be very concerned about what this ruling means in terms of opening up other frivolous harassment suits against members of our community who are expressing their opinions and their very real feelings of frustration,” she told the Daily Progress. “We believe [they] are protected by the First Amendment.”

Starsia told the Daily Progress her and her client were still weighing their options about an appeal.

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