Judge considering moving ‘Unite the Right’ civil trial – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (AP) – A federal judge is considering postponing trial on a civil lawsuit against organizers of the 2017 deadly rally, Unite the Right in Virginia, over potential logistics and security concerns.
The Daily Progress reports that US District Judge Norman Moon raised the idea of rescheduling during a telephone hearing on the case on Friday.
On August 12, 2017, there were violent clashes on the street in Charlottesville before a man fascinated by Adolf Hitler rammed his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators and killed a woman. Lawyers for the victims of the violence sued several right-wing groups and individuals who attended the event, which was partly organized to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee through the city.
The case has developed slowly over the past four years, hampered in part by the sheer number of defendants and the lack of cooperation from some of them, and then by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial is currently scheduled to begin on October 25th.
Moon said he had several concerns about holding the trial in Charlottesville.
“The number of bodies and attorneys in this case raises significant logistical concerns about how to ensure that both sides are represented in the process as space is limited, even in a large courtroom like Charlottesville,” said Moon.
“Space restrictions would still be a problem, but I assume that we could continue to see risks from COVID-19 in October.”
Moon suggested that the trial may be moved to federal court in Roanoke or Lynchburg.
Roberta Kaplan, plaintiffs chief attorney, said her team wants to keep the trial in Charlottesville and is willing to limit the number of plaintiffs and attorneys in the courtroom to one or two at a time. She also said the plaintiffs were open to video watching the trial from other rooms in the courthouse.
Several of the defendants said they had safety concerns if the trial takes place in Charlottesville.
The defendant Richard Spencer spoke out in favor of moving the trial to Lynchburg.
“I was attacked by activists and that is my concern,” he said. “I think your instincts are sound and I think we should try to lower the temperature and remove any kind of public spectacle and just stick to the facts.”
Defendant Matthew Heimbach, a former member of the Traditionalist Worker Party, echoed Spencer’s safety concerns, also saying that a month-long trial would harm his family as he would be unable to work.
Forcing rally participants to return to the area could also attract people over whom the court has no control, Moon said. Kaplan countered by pointing out that the processor’s location will never be secret and that no matter where he is held, people would likely travel.
Moon asked the two sides to deliberate before the next hearing and to submit all comments on the venue within the next seven days. When he will decide is unclear.
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