Washington, DC – November 23, 2021 – Nine plaintiffs, who were victims of a coordinated attack by white supremacists during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, won a historic victory in the landmark federal lawsuit Sines v. Kessler. A Cooley team led by Alan Levine, David Mills and Bob Cahill acted pro bono on behalf of the plaintiffs alongside Kaplan Hecker & Fink, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and Woods Rogers.
Sines v. Kessler was filed on October 11, 2017, and was backed by the nonpartisan nonprofit civil rights organization Integrity First for America. The vicious attacks on innocent protestors, including the killing of Heather Heyer, and the harming dozens of others sparked global attention.
Following a monthlong trial in the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia, the 11-person jury decided that the defendants, who were leaders, promoters and foot soldiers at the rally, as well as their affiliated organizations, had engaged in a conspiracy to commit violence and intimidation that was illegal. The verdict held defendants jointly and severally liable for conspiring to deprive minorities and their supporters of their civil rights.
The plaintiffs – April Muñiz, Chelsea Alvarado, Devin Willis, Elizabeth Sines, Marcus Martin, Marissa Blair, Natalie Romero, Thomas Baker and the Rev. Seth Wispelwey – each testified and underwent cross-examination at length. The jury determined that the plaintiffs were injured as a direct result of the conspiracy the defendants planned and executed, including at the torch rally on the University of Virginia campus on the night of August 11, 2017, and during the chaos that followed on the streets of Charlottesville the next day.
“It has been a long four years since we first brought this case,” the plaintiffs said following the decision. “Today, we can celebrate the jury’s verdict finally holding defendants accountable for what they did to us and to everyone else in the Charlottesville community who stood up against hate in August 2017. Our single greatest hope is that today’s verdict will encourage others to feel safer raising our collective voices in the future to speak up for human dignity and against white supremacy.”
“We are gratified by the outcome in this case, in which the jury found that the leaders of the white supremacist movement intended to incite violence in Charlottesville,” Cooley senior counsel Alan Levine said. “This historic verdict should be viewed as a reminder to all that violence and hate against our democracy and communities have no place in our country.”
The major win earned Levine the title of Litigator of the Week in The American Lawyer’s weekly Litigation Daily column.
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White Supremacists Found Liable For Civil Conspiracy To Commit Violence At ‘Unite The Right’ Rally – ABA Journal
Jury Says White Supremacists Owe $26M For 'Unite The Right' – Law360
‘Can’t Take It For Granted’: Charlottesville Verdict Marks Win In Push To Hold White Nationalists Accountable – The National Law Journal
Jury Faults White Nationalists Behind Fatal Charlottesville Rally, Awards $24M in Punitive Damages – The National Law Journal