Three members of the white supremacist group Rise Above Movement were sentenced to more than two years in prison on Friday for attacking protesters at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Benjamin Drake Daley, 26, Thomas Gillen, 25, and Michael
Paul Miselis, 30, all from California, received sentences ranging from 27 to 37
months after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to riot.
They were among a group of four people indicted last October
and accused of “punching, kicking and choking anti-racism protesters” at
Charlottesville, the Associated
“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,” U.S. Attorney
Thomas Cullen said in a statement reported by the AP.
A fourth member of the Rise Above Movement, Cole Evan White,
was released on bond after accepting
a plea agreement last November, according to The Daily Progress.
Southern California’s Rise Above Movement, which claimed to
have about 50 members and was profiled
by ProPublica in October 2017, was described by Southern
Poverty Law Center as an “overtly racist, violent right-wing fight club
that attends rallies around the country to do open combat with
In an August 2017 social media post, Benjamin Drake Daley,
of Redondo Beach, CA, bragged about striking five people at the Unite the Right
rally, in which scores were injured, and counterprotester Heather Heyer was
killed when white supremacist James Field plowed
his car into a group of counterprotesters. Field was given two
life sentences plus 419 years in prison for the attack.
According to SPLC, RAM’s recruitment strategy included “promotional
videos featuring their workout and training routines, [and] is targeted toward
men who find the idea of a real-world fight club appealing. White supremacy
supplies the justification for violence, but ultimately this group has been
about street fighting. They’ve won praise from far-right media outlets that
applaud the zeal with which they assault political opponents.”
ProPublica noted that many of RAM’s core members have
“serious criminal histories,” including felony charges of assault and weapons
At trial, former FBI investigator Dino Paul Cappuzzo
testified that the three defendants had participated in violent rallies in
Huntington Beach and Berkeley, CA, before traveling to Charlottesville,
according to The Daily Progress.
In Charlottesville, the three men marched in the notoriously racist
and anti-Semitic torch rally on Aug. 11, 2017 at the University of
Virginia, and then they were seen “punching, kicking and choking counterprotesters”
the next day.
Per the newspaper:
Still images that depict the victims of the attacks were later edited and found on the defendant’s phones, one bearing the phrase “THOT STATUS: PATROLLED,” using a sometimes misogynistic acronym. Another image of Miselis kicking a man was edited to insert a Star of David over the victim’s head.
Capuzzo said over the course of his investigation he determined that the RAM defendants had started the violence on Second Street.
Prosecutors tried to charge the defendants with a hate
crime, but U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon said there wasn’t enough evidence
to establish that the victims were targeted because of their religious, ethnic, or racial background.