LOS ANGELES (CNS) -Three members of a Southland-based white supremacist group were sentenced today to between two and three years behind bars for assaulting anti-racism protesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia and political gatherings in California.
Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis and Thomas Gillen each previously pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Virginia, to conspiracy to riot. The members of the now-defunct Rise Above Movement were caught on camera assaulting counter-protesters before a planned “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.
Daley, 26, of Torrance, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison; Gillen, 25, of Redondo Beach, received a sentence of 33 months; and Miselis, 30, of Lawndale, was sentenced to 27 months, according to federal prosecutors. A fourth defendant, Cole Evan White, will be sentenced at a future date.
“These defendants, motivated by hateful ideology, incited and committed acts of violence in Charlottesville, as well at other purported political rallies in California,” said Thomas T. Cullen, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia. “They were not interested in peaceful protest or lawful First Amendment expression; instead, they intended to provoke and engage in street battles with those that they perceived as their enemies. I am grateful for the diligence and hard work of the FBI and Virginia State Police in bringing these violent white supremacists to justice.”
According to court documents, Daley, Gillen and Miselis were members of RAM, a combat-ready, militant group that represented itself as part of the new nationalist and white supremacy movement. RAM frequently posted photographs and videos online of themselves engaging in physical training and mixed martial arts street-fighting techniques, along with messages and propaganda related to their alt-right, anti-Semitic, and white-supremacist views, prosecutors said.
RAM members and associates espoused and committed acts of violence against those who they believed held opposing political views, officials said.
From March to August 2017, RAM and its members -- including Daley, Gillen and Miselis -- traveled to multiple political rallies and organized demonstrations in Virginia and California where they prepared to, and engaged in, acts of violence. RAM regularly held hand-to-hand and other combat training for members and associates to prepare to engage in violent confrontations with protestors and other individuals at purported political rallies.
On March 25, 2017, the three defendants attended a political rally in Huntington Beach with several RAM members. At that event, several RAM members pursued and assaulted groups of protestors and other individuals. Following the event, photographs depicting RAM members assaulting protestors and other individuals were covered on local news stations and on the front page of various Neo-Nazi and white-supremacist websites, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
RAM members celebrated this coverage and used the internet to post statements, photographs and videos of the assaults committed by RAM members at this rally to recruit members to engage in violent confrontations at future events, authorities said.
On April 15, 2017, Daley, Gillen, Miselis and other RAM members attended a rally in Berkeley dressed in gray clothing, goggles and black scarfs or masks to cover the lower half of their faces. Throughout the day, there were violent clashes between some rally attendees and individuals protesting the rally. At one point, RAM members, including Daley and Miselis, crossed a barrier separating the attendees and the protestors, and assaulted several people.
In August 2017, Daley, Gillen, and Miselis planned to travel to Charlottesville to attend the Unite the Right Rally. At the time of their travel, the defendants expected the event would become a riot and that their experience in riots at Huntington Beach and Berkeley would be valuable, court papers show.
On August 11, 2017, the evening prior to the scheduled Unite the Right Rally, Daley, Gillen, Miselis and other members of RAM joined hundreds of individuals in a torch-lit march on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Throughout the march, participants chanted various racists sayings, prosecutors said.
The march culminated near a statue of Thomas Jefferson where a small group of students gathered to protest white supremacy. Violence erupted among the crowd, with some punching, kicking, spraying chemical irritants and swinging torches. During the mayhem, Daley punched multiple people.
As part of their pleas, the defendants admitted these actions were not in self-defense.
In June, a Los Angeles federal judge dismissed all charges against three alleged RAM members suspected of having incited brawls at 2017 political rallies in Huntington Beach, Berkeley and San Bernardino.
U.S. District Judge Carmac J. Carney granted a defense motion dismissing charges against Robert Rundo, Robert Boman and Aaron Eason on grounds that the federal riots act -- under which they were charged -- “is unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment.”
A fourth defendant, Tyler Laube, had earlier pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Riot Act of 1968, and was allowed to withdraw his plea and the charges against him were dismissed.
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