The black civil rights activist who claims to have taken over a decades-old U.S. neo-Nazi group was barred from representing the group in a lawsuit, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe had previously ordered the activist, James Hart Stern, to retain a lawyer on the National Socialist Movement’s behalf since he was not one himself. The NSM and its former leader were named in a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of 11 people injured during the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But Stern never retained counsel. He maintains he assumed control of the NSM from longtime leader Jeff Schoep in order to destroy the group.
As a result, Hoppe ruled Thursday that a Virginia-based lawyer would be allowed to represent both the NSM and Schoep in the lawsuit, according to the AP.
This is the latest development in a strange saga that began in February when Schoep signed over corporate control of the group to Stern. Schoep said he did so because he thought relinquishing control to a black man would help persuade the plaintiffs to drop NSM as a defendant.
But Schoep’s plans didn’t quite pan out.
Stern embarked on a press blitz, boasting that he’d successfully duped Schoep into abandoning the neo-Nazi group he’d led for decades.
So Schoep promptly reversed course, submitting new incorporation filings replacing Stern as the NSM’s president. He has insisted that Stern has no leadership claim or legitimate connection to the group.
Stern then filed a lawsuit in California seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from Schoep and other NSM leaders.
As TPM reported, the NSM has been hemorrhaging members for years and was financially damaged by the Charlottesville suit. The bizarre Stern fiasco essentially represented a death knell for the neo-Nazi group.