Jury Awards Millions in Damages to Victims of Far-right Charlottesville Rally

$25 million was awarded to nine people who suffered physical or emotional injuries during two days of demonstrations in Charlottesville, but no verdict was reached on two additional counts

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Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017.
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017.Credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

In a mixed verdict, a jury has awarded millions of dollars in damages against white nationalist leaders for violence that erupted during the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

After a nearly monthlong civil trial, a jury in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville deadlocked on two key claims but found the white nationalists liable on four other counts Tuesday.

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The jury awarded slightly more than $25 million to nine people who suffered physical or emotional injuries during two days of demonstrations.

The jury deliberated for more than 15 hours on Friday and Monday. At one point Monday, jurors indicated they may be having trouble reaching a unanimous verdict on several allegations brought in the lawsuit by nine people physically hurt or emotionally traumatized by the violence. Jurors are being asked to decide if white nationalists are responsible for the violence and if the defendants are liable for damages.

The jury sent a note to Judge Norman Moon around midday Monday asking: “If we cannot come to a unanimous decision on the first three claims, do we still decide on Claims 4, 5 and 6?”

Moon told lawyers for the plaintiffs and the defendants that he would tell the jury to continue to try to come to a unanimous verdict. He said he thought it was too early to employ the Allen charge, a formal instruction given to deadlocked jurors to encourage them to continue deliberating until reaching a verdict.

Hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville on Aug. 11-12, 2017, ostensibly to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

During a march on the University of Virginia grounds, white nationalists surrounded counterprotesters, shouted, “Jews will not replace us!” and threw burning tiki torches at them. The next day, an avowed admirer of Adolf Hitler intentionally drove his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19.

James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, is serving life in prison for murder and hate crimes for the car attack. He is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

During the trial for the lawsuit, the defendants attempted to distance themselves from Fields. Several testified that they resorted to violence only after they or their associates were attacked.

The lawsuit is being funded by Integrity First for America, a nonprofit civil rights organization.

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