Four alleged members of a militant white supremacist group have been charged with inciting rioting and assaulting counterprotesters at last year’s deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to court documents.
A criminal complaint filed in US District Court for the Western District of Virginia identified the California men as Benjamin Drake Daley, 25, of Redondo Beach; Michael Paul Miselis, 29, of Lawndale; Thomas Walter Gillen, 34, of Redondo Beach; and Cole Evan White, 24, of Clayton.
US Attorney Thomas Cullen described the men as “serial rioters,” saying they also engaged in acts of violence at California political rallies last year in Huntington Beach, Berkeley and other cities.
The four men are accused of traveling from California to Charlottesville for the rally “with intent (a) to incite a riot, (b) to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry on in a riot, (c) as having ‘participated in violent encounters in Charlottesville,’” the complaint said.
They’re accused of being ‘among most violent individuals’ at rally
The defendants were identified in the complaint as members and associates of the Rise Above Movement, a militant white supremacist organization based in Southern California.
The criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday called the defendants “among the most violent individuals” at the Charlottesville rally.
The men face riot and conspiracy charges, with maximum prison sentences of five years on each count, according to Cullen. The prosecutor said the investigation is ongoing, and additional arrests are possible.
The violence at the August 2017 event began ahead of a planned rally that the Southern Poverty Law Center described as the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades.”
On their way to the Unite the Right rally in Emancipation Park, Daley, Miselis, Gillen and White had “hands taped ready to do street battle, committed multiple acts of violence, including punching, kicking, headbutting and pushing numerous people,” the complaint said.
Their victims included an African-American man, two women and a minister wearing a clerical collar, Cullen said. Some were seriously injured.
Photo and video footage in the complaint show White apparently head-butting a man in a clerical collar and a female counterprotester. The woman suffered a severe laceration.
Gillen, Daley and Miselis are shown assaulting multiple counterprotesters, the complaint said. In other photos, some of the men are seen apparently kicking and slamming counterprotesters to the ground.
Complaint includes photos of defendants engaging in violence at rallies
Cullen said investigators spent months reviewing digital evidence in the case, including social media posts, photos and videos.
White allegedly used a torch as a weapon and Daley boasted on social media of hitting five people at a torch-lit rally, the complaint said.
Rise Above Movement members openly identify themselves on social media as “alt-right” and “nationalist” and frequently post videos and photos of them performing physical training and mixed martial arts street-fighting techniques “in order to prepare to engage in fighting and violence at political rallies,” the complaint said.
RAM openly espouses anti-Semitism and violence toward those who “hold opposite ideologies to their own,” according to the complaint.
Three of the defendants appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon. It’s unclear whether they have attorneys.
The complaint includes numerous photos of the defendants engaging in violence at rallies.
Scuffles and fistfights broke out over that weekend before a man drove a silver Dodge Charger into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer, 32, a local paralegal whose father said she was always fighting for others.
An Ohio man accused of driving the car was charged with second-degree murder in Heyer’s death.
CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin and Emily Smith contributed to this report.