Plaintiffs in a lawsuit stemming from the 2017 Unite the Right rally have asked the court to impose sanctions on two white supremacist defendants for not submitting evidence.
Two of the two dozen defendants in the federal Sines v. Kessler lawsuit — Matthew Heimbach and Eli Kline, also known as Eli Mosley — have repeatedly ignored discovery requests, according to a motion from the plaintiffs filed Wednesday.
“While both Defendants initially dabbled in the litigation, they each opted out when faced with discovery requests that would reveal the evidence of their misconduct,” the motion reads. “Content to play by their own rules, Defendants Kline and Heimbach simply refused to participate any longer.”
The suit was filed in October 2017 by a group of Charlottesville residents against organizers and key participants in the deadly Aug. 12, 2017, white supremacist rally.
The filing further claims that Heimbach has continued to comment about the lawsuit publicly on social media but has disregarded court orders and attempts to re-engage him with the case.
By collectively ignoring 20 court notices and seven court conferences in the last 14 months, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue Heimbach and Kline have “prejudiced the plaintiffs significantly” and therefore are asking for sanctions as a remedy.
“Worse, the Defendants’ unpunished defiance has become contagious, as one-by-one, other Defendants have begun to employ similar tactics to delay or withhold the production of documents,” the filing reads. “In fact, … Defendant Vanguard America’s own counsel concedes that his client’s similar refusal to participate in discovery ‘is a problem.’ In that sense, Defendants Kline and Heimbach continue to lead.”
The filing further details Heimbach and Kline’s involvement, attaching a swath of evidence and depositions that support the plaintiffs’ argument that the two were highly involved in organizing the Unite the Right rally and perpetuating violence.
“It is no exaggeration to say that without Kline, Unite the Right may not have occurred,” the filing reads. “At the August 12 event, Kline rushed in with both fists, personally ensuring that his violent plans would play out at that weekend. Photographs taken that day show Kline smiling gleefully with the blood of counter protestors on his clothes.”
Under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court can determine Heimbach and Kline acted in bad faith and then impose sanctions.
Specifically, the filing requests that the court impose sanctions establishing that all documents the plaintiffs have obtained and that are believed to be created by Heimbach and Kline be deemed “authentic” and entered into evidence. Additionally, the plaintiffs ask the court to rule that when the case goes to trial, the jury must be informed that the Heimbach and Kline did not cooperate with discovery.
“The requested sanctions are necessary to put Plaintiffs in the position they would have been in had Kline and Heimbach complied with their discovery obligations in this case and are designed to deter other Defendants from continuing to defy this Court’s orders,” the filing reads.
In a news release from Integrity First For America, which first filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs, co-lead counsel Roberta Kaplan accuses the defendants of avoiding responsibility and violating the KKK Act of 1871, which was designed to combat white supremacist organizations.
“Defendants’ unwillingness to participate in discovery or comply with numerous Court orders is nothing more than a transparent attempt to avoid responsibility for their actions,” Kaplan said. “But their effort to do the equivalent of putting their hands over their eyes and ears and pretending that this case does not exist will not succeed. We remain committed to holding them accountable for their conspiracy to commit racialized violence in Charlottesville in August 2017 in violation of the KKK Act of 1871.”
The plaintiffs made similar claims last month in a motion about defendant Jeff Schoep, former leader of the National Socialist Movement, who they argued has been intentionally avoiding submitting his electronic device and social media accounts for court-ordered discovery.
“A year and a half into this litigation, Plaintiffs have the same number of documents from Jeff Schoep that they had at the start of this case: zero,” the Schoep filing says. “And make no mistake, that is by his design.”
Schoep’s situation has been further complicated by James Hart Stern, 54, a black civil rights activist who took over the National Socialist Movement from Schoep at the beginning of March. His first move was to ask U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe to find the organization culpable of conspiring to commit violence at the Unite the Right rally.
However, Stern is not a licensed attorney and Hoppe ordered he could not represent the National Socialist Movement. In an interview with The Washington Post, Stern said he planned to hire an attorney to refile his motion for summary judgment. However, no such motion has been filed so far.
No trial date or additional dates have been set yet.