A Charlottesville judge is considering whether to dismiss a defendant in a lawsuit stemming from the deadly car attack that occurred shortly after the Aug. 12, 2017, Unite the Right rally.
William Regnery II is one of nearly two dozen defendants named in a lawsuit filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court three days after the white supremacist rally. Sisters Tadrint and Micah Washington were injured during the car attack.
Regnery is a millionaire credited with founding the white supremacist National Policy Institute think tank, which is also a defendant in the lawsuit. He has been widely credited with giving financial support for groups and individuals that helped to expand the so-called “alt-right” political movement.
Though Regnery was not present at the Unite the Right rally, David Dickens, an attorney for the plaintiffs, argued Tuesday in Charlottesville Circuit Court that, due to his involvement with the “alt-right” and fellow defendant Richard Spencer, Regnery should have been aware that violence was planned.
Leading up to the rally, articles encouraging violence were published on Altright.com, which Regnery is the publisher of, Dickens said, arguing that these articles — and, by extension, Regnery — helped create violence.
“Articles published on AltRight.com specifically encourage violence,” he said. “In effect, the defendants are not only saying we know violence will occur, they are also encouraging it.”
Regnery’s attorney disagreed with this claim, presenting a hypothetical where, by the plaintiffs’ logic, HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington would have to be responsible for anything published by the HuffPost.
Additionally, Regnery was not involved in the planning of the rally and did not write about or promote the events in Charlottesville before or after the event, his attorney said Tuesday.
Dickens further argued that Regnery likely had knowledge of the rally due to Spencer’s involvement. Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute, played a large role in organizing the event and Dickens said he was quoted as saying he would never plan a “big thing” without first consulting Regnery.
Regnery’s attorney maintained that the facts in the complaint were insufficient to indicate his client was aware of the potential for violence at the rally and was protected by First Amendment rights for his political speech and associations.
“There can be no conspiracy to do what the law allows,” he said. “Many may not like his ideas and those he associates with and many would find them to be bad ideas, poor ideologies — or worse — but that doesn’t mean they are not protected speech.”
Judge Richard E. Moore, who is presiding over the case, did not rule on the demurrer Tuesday, citing a desire to reread the complaint and cases cited by counsel during argument. However, he agreed with counsel that the central issue was whether the facts alleged were sufficient to indicate Regnery bore some responsibility and knowledge the rally could turn violent.
“The real question is whether there is enough that Mr. Regnery knew, or should have known, that violence would occur or that his support was going to cause someone to be hurt,” he said.
Moore did not give an estimate of when he would issue a ruling.
The Washington sisters — who were seriously injured when defendant and convicted murderer James Alex Fields Jr. slammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters — are seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.
The suit names Regnery, Spencer, Fields, the National Policy Institute, Jason Kessler, AltRight Corp., Mike Peinovich, Michael Hill, Matthew Heimbach, the Traditionalist Worker Party, the League of the South, Bradley Griffin, Vanguard America, Augustus Invictus, Chris Cantwell, Andrew Anglin, Moonbase Holdings, Identity Europa, Nathan Damigo and Elliott Kline.