The National Socialist Movement and its former leader Jeff Schoep have joined a growing list of rally trial defendants seeking to reduce hundreds of thousands of dollars in punitive damages awarded to them through a federal lawsuit.
The prolific federal Sines v. Kessler lawsuit that sought to hold organizers and key participants accountable for the 2017 violence in Charlottesville has passed its November end date, prolonging the years-long case.
The plaintiffs claimed victory after an 11-person jury found the defendants engaged in a conspiracy, as defined by Virginia law, and imposed more than $26 million in fines.
However, several defendants are seeking either a new trial or reduced damages, citing the lack of a jury verdict on more specific federal conspiracy law alleging racially motivated violence, and a disparity in punitive damages. and compensatory damages.
In addition to Schoep and the National Socialist Movement, which filed motions on Thursday, defendants Chris Cantwell, Jason Kessler, Nathan Damigo and Identity Evropa filed motions for review.
People also read…
Schoep and the movement’s motions both argue that the court should vary its judgment awarding damages of $500,000 and $1 million, respectively, “due to the gross injustice that would result from the implementation of such order as it is written”.
In both motions, the parties’ attorney, William E. ReBrook, argues that the relationship between punitive and compensatory damages violates the Due Process Clause of the Constitution and cites a decision of the Supreme Court of United States in a State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance case. In that case, ReBrook cited that the SCOTUS ruled that “few awards exceeding a single digit ratio of punitive and compensatory damages will satisfy due process.”
Throughout both motions, ReBrook cites a variety of cases both as precedent and as supporting evidence as to why it believes punitive damages, levied to punish its clients for their actions, should be reduced. The arguments are familiar. Other defendants argued that punitive damages should be commensurate with compensatory damages, which the jury ordered to compensate plaintiffs for costs they suffered as a result of plaintiffs’ actions.
“But a charitable estimate of the plaintiffs [Natalie Romero, April Muniz, Thomas Baker, Marissa Blair, Marcus Martin, Chelsea Alvarado and Devin Willis’], the actual civil conspiracy harm was $1,” ReBrook wrote. “The punishment ratios in this case, using these actual damage estimates, would be 500,000 to 1, which is well above the one-, two-, or, rarely, three-digit multiples that the courts have approved. “
In Schoep’s motion, ReBrook argues that plaintiffs’ attorneys were “relentless in their efforts to strike out any mention of defendant Schoep’s renunciation of white supremacist beliefs,” and that this could have influenced the jury’s decision.
Following the murderous Unite the Right rally, Schoep quit the National Socialist movement and claimed to have abandoned his white supremacist views. He also founded the non-profit organization Beyond Barriers, which claims to be a new approach to countering and preventing extremism.
“Had plaintiffs’ counsel allowed testimony about the defendant’s current work to be heard, the jury would have been better equipped to determine the appropriate amount of punitive damages, if any, against defendant Schoep alone. “, wrote ReBrook. “This prejudice is evidenced by the general judgment of $500,000 in punitive damages awarded to all defendants.”
Although Schoep’s motion to vary or vary the judgment came recently, a month ago a motion was filed on Schoep’s behalf which differed significantly from the others in that it was not filed by the defendant. or his attorney.
Named after petitioner Daryl Davis, the reconsideration motion is a collection of testimonies from Davis and others that argue Schoep has changed his ways since the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally.
“It was the influence and work of me (a black Christian) and my friend Deeyah Khan (a brown-skinned Muslim woman) that was the impetus for [Schoep] not only to denounce his supremacist/nationalist ideology, but to dedicate his life to the de-radicalization of those who remain in these movements and to prevent, especially young people, from being caught up and brainwashed into joining these movements” , Davis wrote.
Davis’ petition includes more than a dozen testimonials from others advocating for Schoep’s character change, including several people of the Jewish faith and self-proclaimed far-right scholars.
According to Schoep, the filing was made by Davis without his input or prior knowledge.
It remains to be seen how the court will respond to Davis’s motion, which is likely to have little sway in the proceedings since he is not a party to the lawsuit.
According to a post-trial scheduling order, defendants have until March 9 to file motions and supporting memoranda. Based on the timeline, it seems unlikely that the Federal Court will rule on any of the post-trial motions until May, at the earliest.