Charlottesville Nazis’ Lawyers Keep Dumping Them Ahead of Trial

Chip Somodevilla / Getty
When an attorney dropped Richard Spencer as a client in a widespread civil lawsuit on Monday, the eighth person, the white nationalist, was no longer represented in the lawsuit targeting participants in the white Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
Sines v. Kessler names many of the key extreme right-wing participants in the Unite the Right rally - as it was branded - which the plaintiffs say left Charlottesville and his people lasting physical and emotional scars. Since the lawsuit was filed in late 2017, the accused have had difficulty finding or maintaining legal representation. Some, like Spencer and the former leader of the fascist "Traditionalist Worker Party", were dropped due to unpaid legal fees. A lawyer representing the neo-Nazi "National Socialist Movement" has unsuccessfully requested to drop clients because of an alleged conflict of interest. And several defendants have lost representation after their lawyers said it was impossible - "repulsive" in one case - to work with them.
Much of the American legal system has come to a standstill in the past few months. The courtrooms were closed due to COVID-19, which delays civil and criminal cases alike. But the defendants in the Unite the Right case have a different problem: in a country with a long history of repulsive personalities who secure legal representation on the A list, no one wants to stop them.
Spencer's lawyer, John DiNucci, submitted to drop him as a client earlier this month, citing unpaid fees and his alleged lack of cooperation with the case. At a hearing earlier this month, Spencer claimed that his reputation prevented him from making enough money to pay his lawyer. (This month, Spencer also faced a prison sentence for unpaid fees related to his ongoing divorce in Montana, but avoided it.) Neither Spencer nor DiNucci replied to The Daily Beast's request for comment.
Sines v. Kessler is supported by the civil rights group Integrity First For America. Executive director Amy Spitalnick said the defendants' lawyers had jumped on the ship for various reasons.
"In some cases, these lawyers have withdrawn because they haven't been paid or haven't communicated with their clients," Spitalnick told The Daily Beast. “In other cases, they have led their clients' disgusting behavior. Ultimately, clients and their lawyers, as far as they have them, are obliged to comply with the court orders and the discovery of the accused. Our plaintiffs are currently focusing on this. "
Although Sines v. Kessler is due to be brought to trial in October, the discovery process has been going on for a long time. The plaintiffs urge the accused to provide notices and evidence related to the planning of the rally, in which a neo-Nazi drove a car into a host of counter-demonstrators, killing one and wounding dozens more.
However, some of the accused's lawyers accuse their clients and former clients of hindering the discovery process. Lawyers Elmer Woodard and James Kolenich, who represent many of the accused, left the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America last June and claimed that the hate group that had since been dissolved stopped communicating with them during the discovery process.
Dillon Hopper, the group's former leader, told The Daily Beast that he had not provided the required information.
"The reason I was dropped is that I didn't provide the correct documentation in time, which caused the lawyer to be upset and unwilling to represent me," Hopper said in an email. In a file last year, he also claimed that he was broke and could not pay more urgent medical bills.
Although they still represent a number of right-wing extremists, Woodard and Kolenich appear to have given up three more. In January 2019, the couple successfully withdrew from the former leader of the Traditionalist Labor Party, Matthew Heimbach. (It was their second attempt after their first resignation was denied.) The lawyers said Heimbach hadn't paid them and cut off communication with them.
In a message to The Daily Beast, Heimbach said the lawsuit was too expensive and accused Woodard and Kolenich of raising their prices because "most lawyers do not want to be called a" clan lawyer "." (Neither Woodard nor Kolenich returned requests for comments.) He also cited anti-fascist campaigns to boot white supremacists from online donation platforms like GoFundMe.
Woodard and Kolenich (the latter previously gave an interview on an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory and claimed that "whites are the chosen ones in the New Testament") also dropped two right-wing extremists on the Internet. In July, they withdrew Christopher Cantwell and Robert "Azzmador" Ray.
The lawyers argued that it was difficult to work with Ray because he had been on the run since at least June 2018 to avoid charges of alleged use of tear gas at Unite the Right. (His defense in this case is shaky because he boasted on a video that "I personally literally gassed half a dozen k * kes.")
The only way for lawyers to contact Ray was through the comment section on a white Supremacist website. "The lawyer had to contact via an alternative means (an online alt-right comment section) and Mr. Ray then called," they wrote in a file, adding that he had not paid his bills. (Ray could not be reached for comment.)
Woodard and Kolenich also dropped Cantwell after posting violent comments on the plaintiffs chief lawyer in the Telegram messaging app. "Mr. Cantwell made it inappropriate for him to continue to represent the lawyer, created a conflict of interest between him and the lawyer's other clients, and participated in behaviors that the lawyer considered" repulsive or unwise ", the lawyers wrote in a resignation motion and also quoted his unpaid attorney fees. (Cantwell could not be reached immediately because he is waiting for incitement in prison after allegedly threatening to rape a woman in front of her children.)
In the meantime, a lawyer representing the group's National Socialist movement and its former leader has so far unsuccessfully requested a resignation. Attorney William ReBrook, who did not return a request for comment, alleged that representing the group and its former leader was a conflict of interest. Former leader Jeff Schoep claims that he gave up decades of neo-Nazism on time, an allegation that some right-wing observers raised with eyebrows raised. (Schoep did not return a request for comment.)
In a lawsuit against ReBrook's withdrawal, the plaintiffs' lawyers argued that ReBrook knew that Schoep had already resigned when he took up the case. The plaintiffs accused ReBrook of being a "willing participant" in an increasingly complex attempt to stop disclosing evidence.
Spitalnick said the defendants had tried for years to avoid handing over records that could indicate their complicity in the violent rally. It was difficult not to see the fiasco, which is their quest for legal representation, as an extension of it.
"It's been over two and a half years since this case was filed," she said, "and the accused have tried every trick in the book to avoid accountability."
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