Accused ‘serial rioters’ plead guilty in Charlottesville racist mayhem
Two alleged white supremacists described by authorities as traveling ‘‘serial rioters’’ each pleaded guilty to a federal crime Friday for instigating violence during the notorious 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Benjamin Daley and Michael Miselis, alleged members of a white-power group called Rise Above Movement, or RAM, were among four men indicted by a federal grand jury last year on charges related to the Aug. 12, 2017, rally, which descended into a daylong scene of violent clashes between racist demonstrators and counterprotesters.
Appearing in US District Court in Charlottesville, Daley, 26, of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Miselis, 30, of Lawndale, Calif., each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to riot, punishable by up to five years in prison. The two other alleged RAM members, Cole White, 24, of Clayton, Calif., and Thomas Gillen, 35, of Redondo Beach, earlier pleaded guilty to the same charge.
The four are scheduled to be sentenced July 19 by Judge Norman Moon.
‘‘These avowed white supremacists traveled to Charlottesville to incite and commit acts of violence, not to engage in peaceful First Amendment expression,’’ said US Attorney Thomas T. Cullen of the Western District of Virginia.
In a statement, he said, ‘‘Although the First Amendment protects an organization’s right to express abhorrent political views, it does not authorize senseless violence in furtherance of a political agenda.’’
Violent images from the demonstration, including video of a deliberate, homicidal car crash, were televised worldwide, making the Unite the Right rally a seminal event in the recent rise of emboldened white supremacism in the country.
James Fields Jr., now 21, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi from Ohio, was convicted of first-degree murder in state court for ramming his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a woman and injuring at least 35 other people. The jury in that case recommended a life sentence, which is scheduled to be imposed in July. Fields also pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes and is awaiting sentencing.
The four California men were not accused of being involved in the deadly incident.