Three members of a white supremacist group who participated in 2017’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, were handed jail sentences related to riot charges on Friday, the Justice Department announced.
Benjamin Daley was sentenced to 37 months in prison, Thomas Gillen to 33 months and Michael Miselis to 27 months for violence they committed during the Charlottesville rally and other events in California. The men were arrested by federal authorities in Virginia in October and were part of a now-defunct group called the Rise Above Movement, a violent white supremacist organization based in California.
A fourth man, Cole Evan White, will be sentenced at a later date.
“These defendants, motivated by hateful ideology, incited and committed acts of violence in Charlottesville, as well at other purported political rallies in California,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said Friday. “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.”
The group was singled out as being among the “most violent” members of the protest when the charges were first unsealed. According to the prosecutors’ case, the Rise Above Movement regularly trained for hand-to-hand combat and attended rallies with the intent to provoke violence. After events, the group shared footage of the conflicts as a means to “recruit members to engage in violent confrontations at future events.”
Daley, Gillen and Miselis were part of the group that carried torches through the University of Virginia’s campus in August 2017, chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and attacking anti-racist protesters. The trio was linked to attacks that included punching, kicking, choking and head butts and could be seen in photographs after the event assaulting counterprotesters.
The sentences were not related to the death of Heather Heyer, who died when James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of protesters who were demonstrating against racism. Fields was sentenced to two life terms in prison for the act.
“The sentences imposed today demonstrate the U.S. government’s intolerance of the use of violence, by anyone, to infringe upon the right of others to assemble peacefully,” David Archey, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the investigation, said in a statement. “The FBI applauds today’s sentences and will continue to aggressively investigate allegations of such activity with its law enforcement partners.”
Trump was roundly lambasted over his response to the rally when he said there were “very fine people” on both sides.