This post has been updated.
A federal jury in Virginia has awarded more than $25 million in damages to plaintiffs in a lawsuit against organizers and participants in the 2017 “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The suit was brought by a group of nine plaintiffs who suffered an array of physical and mental injuries at the racist rally, which they alleged were the result of a conspiracy to commit racial violence in Charlottesville.
The jury’s decision affects some of the most prominent white nationalists in the United States, including defendants Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach, Jason Kessler, and others. Defendant organizations included the League of the South, Identity Evropa and the Nationalist Socialist Movement.
Around half of the damages were decided against James Alex Fields, Jr., who attended the Unite the Right rally and later drove his car into protesters.
The decision from the jury, after weeks of intense testimony in federal court, “sent a clear message: violent hate won’t go unanswered,” said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of the group supporting the plaintiffs in the case, Integrity First for America.
Jurors found the defendants liable for four of six claims against them.
The jury was deadlocked on the other two claims, which pertained to federal civil rights law: No decision was reached on whether rally organizers engaged in a conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence in violation of the federal Ku Klux Klan Act, nor whether they had knowledge of such a conspiracy and failed to prevent it from taking place.
But defendants were deemed liable on the third claim, an alleged violation of Virginia’s civil conspiracy law. Each individual defendant in the suit was ordered to pay $500,000 in punitive damages, and each defendant organization was ordered to pay $1,000,000.
On the fourth claim — the alleged violation of the state law prohibiting racial, religious or ethnic harassment or violence — five defendants were ordered to pay $200,000 each in punitive damages. Two plaintiffs were awarded $250,000 each in compensatory damages, as well.
Fields was found liable for claims of assault or battery, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is currently serving multiple life sentences for the murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer.
Fields was deemed liable for $12 million in punitive damages for the latter two claims, and six plaintiffs were collectively awarded more than $1 million in compensatory damages.