In light of requests from attorneys representing neo-Nazi Christopher Cantwell to withdraw from a lawsuit stemming from the 2017 Unite the Right rally, plaintiffs have asked the court to further enjoin the defendant.
Cantwell, one of the organizers of the deadly rally, has been accused by the plaintiffs of threatening plaintiffs’ attorney Roberta Kaplan on several occasions. In two separate filings, the plaintiffs have asked the court to compel Cantwell to stop making such comments. The court has not yet ruled on the motions.
In a filing last week, attorneys Elmer Woodard and James Kolenich asked the court to dismiss them as representatives for Cantwell in the Sines v. Kessler case, citing difficulties with him, as well as fellow client Robert “Azzmador” Ray. The suit was filed by local victims of the white supremacist rally against its organizers.
Woodard and Kolenich cite the accusations of the threats against Kaplan in their motion to withdraw.
“As a result, Mr. Cantwell has rendered Attorney’s continued representation of him unreasonably difficult, has created a conflict of interest between himself and Attorney’s other clients, and has engaged in conduct Attorneys consider ‘repugnant or imprudent,’” Kolenich and Woodard said in the filing.
On Wednesday, plaintiffs filed another supplementary motion to their motion to enjoin Cantwell, pointing to his own attorneys’ motion as supporting information.
“Mr. Cantwell’s attorneys candidly stated they ‘are at a loss as to how we would be able to argue Ms. Kaplan’s concerns and requests for relief as expressed to the Court are unreasonable,’”the motion reads.
This is not the first time Woodard and Kolenich have asked to withdraw as counsel for Cantwell and Ray.
In October, the attorneys attempted to withdraw, saying they had not been paid. The defendants later agreed to pay and the request was dropped.
The plaintiffs opposed the previous requests to withdraw, claiming that if Woodard and Kolenich were allowed to withdraw, it could delay the trial and impede the discovery process. They do not oppose the current motion.
Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, the group representing the plaintiffs, said the filing is indicative of problems they already have pointed out.
“The recent filings underscore two critical issues we’ve been raising,” she wrote. “One, these defendants have a total disregard for the legal process and the rule of law. Two, even their own attorneys are concerned about the defendants’ violent threats — and see them as totally indefensible.”
“What’s concerning here is not just Cantwell’s own capacity for violence, which we saw firsthand in Charlottesville and elsewhere,” she wrote. “These threats are also intended to incite his followers to action. It’s that pattern — of an extremist leader urging his followers to violence — that we’ve seen at play in so many recent attacks, from Pittsburgh to Poway to Christchurch.”
In July 2018, Cantwell pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and battery related to his dispersal of pepper spray near the University of Virginia Rotunda on the eve of the rally.
On another front, the plaintiffs have been seeking outstanding unfulfilled discovery requests for several months. Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe ordered defendant Elliott Kline — who served briefly as the head of Identity Evropa in 2017 — to comply with discovery requests within 21 days of July 3.
Kline said in a telephonic hearing on July 2 that the only device he had kept from the time of the rally was an old cellphone, and that he no longer had access to his social media accounts.
Hoppe said Kline still needed to identify the usernames and logins for the defunct or deleted accounts, so that plaintiffs could ask social media companies to search for them.
On Friday, Hoppe ordered Kline to attend a telephonic status conference to discuss his compliance with that order. The hearing is scheduled for Aug. 8.