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Sisters' lawsuit over car attack returns to court Tuesday

Sisters' lawsuit over car attack returns to court Tuesday

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — After languishing for months, a lawsuit filed by two victims of violence at the Unite the Right rally will have another hearing in Charlottesville Circuit Court this week.

Three days after the deadly white supremacist rally, two victims of the car attack — Tadrint and Micah Washington — filed a lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court against organizer Jason Kessler, convicted murderer James Alex Fields Jr., white nationalist organizer Richard Spencer and 30 other groups and individuals.

The suit has since been narrowed to Fields, Kessler, Spencer, the National Policy Institute, William Regnery II, AltRight Corp., Mike Peinovich, Michael Hill, Matthew Heimbach, the Traditionalist Worker Party, the League of the South, Bradley Griffin, Vanguard America, Augustus Invictus, Chris Cantwell, Andrew Anglin, Moonbase Holdings, Identity Europa, Nathan Damigo and Elliott Kline.

They are seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

The sisters — who said they did not take part in any protesting on Aug. 12, 2017 — were on their way home when they found themselves being detoured down Fourth Street Southeast. They stopped at the intersection of Fourth and East Water streets to let a large group of protesters cross the street.

When Fields drove his Dodge Challenger down Fourth Street, it slammed into the sisters’ vehicle and the two were thrown into the dashboard and windshield and suffered serious injuries.

Due in part to difficulties many of the defendants have had finding attorneys, the case has taken a while to unfold.

On Tuesday, the court will hear a motion to dismiss from the case defendant Regnery, a multimillionaire who founded the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank led by Spencer.

In a demurrer, attorneys for Regnery claims that the defendant had no role in planning the Unite the Right rally and thus should not be considered in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs have alleged that Regnery’s financial support of various so-called “alt-right” organizations involved in the rally constitute a conspiracy and make him liable.

“Regnery was not involved in the planning or organization of the UTR Rally, had no presence on social media sites cited throughout Plaintiffs’ complaint, and Plaintiffs have not, and cannot, allege that Regnery had any interaction with, let alone knowledge of, Defendant Fields,” the filing reads.

The filing goes on to claim that the plaintiffs have not alleged enough facts to overcome Regnery’s constitutional rights, particularly his First Amendment protections.

“Instead, while Plaintiffs may have alleged sufficient facts, for purposes of demurrer, against other defendants, Regnery cannot be found liable for the actions of others merely through association,” the filing reads.

The filing goes on to cite the Sines v. Kessler case, a similar lawsuit in the federal court system filed by area residents against organizers of the rally.

Similar to the Washington case, the Sines case has hit snags due to problems with compliance from the defendants, mostly in the form of lack of adequate counsel.

Regnery’s filing also cites a quotation from the 1963 NAACP v. Button case — which is also referenced in the Sines case — that says “the right to associate does not lose all its constitutional protection merely because some members of the group may have participated in conduct or advocated for doctrine that itself is not protected.”

A response by the plaintiffs to Regnery’s demurrer has not been filed, but the alleged issues, as well as several others more broadly applying to other defendants, are expected to be argued at Tuesday’s hearing in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

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