Man pleads guilty to riot con­spir­acy in con­nec­tion with vi­o­lent 2017 rally

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - LOCAL PERSPECTIVES -

CHAR­LOTTESVILLE — One of four Cal­i­for­nia men ac­cused of vi­o­lently at­tack­ing coun­ter­protesters at a white na­tion­al­ist rally in Vir­ginia last year pleaded guilty Fri­day to con­spir­acy to riot.

Cole Evan White, 24, of Clay­ton, Calif., en­tered the guilty plea in U.S. District Court and ad­mit­ted to trav­el­ing across the coun­try to com­mit acts of vi­o­lence at the torch-lit march at the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia and the Unite the Right rally.

White is one of four Cal­i­for­nia men pros­e­cu­tors iden­ti­fied as mem­bers of the Rise Above Move­ment, a mil­i­tant white su­prem­a­cist group that they said es­pouses anti-Semitic and other racist views and meets reg­u­larly to train in boxing and other fight­ing tech­niques.

White, Ben­jamin Da­ley, Thomas Gillen and Michael Miselis were in­dicted in Oc­to­ber and charged with trav­el­ing with the in­tent to in­cite ri­ots and con­spir­acy to riot. Charges are still pend­ing against Da­ley, Gillen and Miselis, and each faces up to 10 years in prison if con­victed on the two counts.

When the charges were an­nounced, U.S. At­tor­ney Thomas Cullen said the four were con­sid­ered “serial ri­ot­ers” and made their way to the Unite the Right rally with their hands taped, “ready to do street bat­tle.”

An af­fi­davit al­leged that they were “among the most vi­o­lent in­di­vid­u­als present in Char­lottesville” and said pho­tos and video footage showed that in some cases their at­tacks on coun­ter­protesters “re­sulted in se­ri­ous in­juries.”

In a state­ment of facts, White said he at­tended an April 2017 rally in Berke­ley, Calif., where he met and be­friended Da­ley, who was with mem­bers of RAM. There were vi­o­lent clashes be­tween rally at­ten­dees and pro­test­ers.

Da­ley en­cour­aged White to at­tend the Vir­ginia rally in Au­gust 2017, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, even of­fer­ing to pay for his flight and stay in Char­lottesville. Da­ley told White: “It’s go­ing to be like Berke­ley again. It’s go­ing to be the event of the year.”

White bought a ticket to Char­lottesville and ad­mit­ted that at the time of his travel that he ex­pected to en­gage in vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions with pro­test­ers or other in­di­vid­u­als at the up­com­ing events, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment.

At the torch-lit march on Aug. 11, 2017, vi­o­lence erupted, and White ad­mit­ted to strik­ing sev­eral peo­ple with his torch, not­ing it was not in self-de­fense.

White ad­mit­ted to com­mit­ting mul­ti­ple acts of vi­o­lence the next morn­ing at the Unite the Right rally, in­clud­ing grab­bing a per­son who was block­ing the side­walk by hold­ing on to a street sign and punch­ing him un­til he let go and head-butting a male he thought was in his way and a fe­male pro­tester who was on the side­walk.

White faces a max­i­mum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at sen­tenc­ing, which has not been sched­uled yet.

A call to White’s at­tor­ney was not im­me­di­ately re­turned.

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