The first half of day two of jury selection in Sines v. Kessler civil lawsuit in Charlottesville proceeded largely as expected, with a few moments of dumbfounding rulings and arguments, against a backdrop of allegations of potential jury intimidation by Antifa.
On a ledger, the defense seemed to do better than plaintiffs with Tuesday’s round of juror selection, with more jurors that the plaintiffs wanted struck by the judge for cause than was the case for defendants.
The plaintiffs, represented by powerful Jewish interests, allege that the defendants “conspired to commit racially motivated violence” at the legally permitted Unite the Right rally held in August 2017.
The 2017 lawsuit – amended in 2019 – lists 10 White nationalist organizations and individuals, including the Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin, Richard Spencer, Christopher Cantwell, the League of the South, the National Socialist Movement, the defunct Traditional Workers Party and Identity Evropa, and at least two chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.
The procedure for jury selection goes like this: A potential juror is brought in and the judge both questions them and informs them of basic civil court procedure. Attorneys are able to submit questions to be asked to the juror by the judge, based on their answers to a jury duty questionnaire.
The judge rules on whether they have a hardship – given the four weeks the case is expected to take – and if they have biases one way or the other that they can’t be reasonably overcome. If so, they are struck for cause.
Each side can later move for a peremptory strike of up to six jurors. Seven jurors were selected on Monday. The defense has four peremptory strikes left, while the plaintiffs have only three.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, presiding U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon seemed to have no problem allowing one potential juror who said that he essentially considered himself to be Antifa. The juror was presumably among those struck by the defense and plaintiffs before the noon break.
Another juror told the judge he couldn’t be impartial or set aside his biases, as he said of the defendants in the lawsuit, “You’re all evil.”
The judge sent that juror out and told defense and plaintiffs that he believed he should strike the potential juror for his irredeemable bias.
Another heated moment during the morning proceedings came when plaintiff’s attorney Karen Dunn accused Judge Moon of “leading a juror to a certain conclusion” during his questions and instructions, to which Moon immediately shot back “When did I lead the juror?”
Dunn quickly walked her statement back and apologized.
During the morning discussion, there was also mention of a violent altercation in the parking lot of a Staples in Charlottesville on Monday, near the courthouse.
One juror in court said that they saw the altercation.
On Twitter, Kessler alleged this was jury tampering and intimidation by Antifa.
“Antifa & BLM are conducting the sick version of ‘community defense’ they promised in plain view of members of the jury pool,” Kessler wrote on Twitter. “A juror witnessed people being ‘hunted’ in the Staples parking lot directly across the street from the courthouse #Charlottesville.”
In fact, one potential juror towards the end of the day on Tuesday said he was concerned there could be violence by BLM and Antifa supporters of the plaintiffs if the jury finds for the defendants.
“I would feel someone showing up at my residence, if my identity was known,” he stated.
Incredibly, that concern prompted plaintiff’s attorney Karen Dunn to suggest the juror should be struck with cause by Judge Moon.
The 10 plaintiffs are represented by Integrity First for America, which has raised more than $10 million for this lawsuit designed to suppress free speech and free assembly rights.
Critics of this lawsuit accuse it of being a SLAPP lawsuit, which is defined as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. These damaging suits chill free speech and healthy debate by targeting those who protest or speak out on issues of public interest. SLAPPs are used to silence and harass critics of the wealthy and powerful by forcing them to spend precious time and money to defend against frivolous legal action.
Roberta Kaplan, the Jewish attorney that masterminded the lawsuit has publicly admitted that her intent in all cases she brings is to use the legal system to achieve political ends. Specifically in the case of Charlottesville she has repeatedly said that she wants to shut down free speech.
“One of the reasons why I did this case is to deter other white supremacists, neo-Nazis and others from trying to organize anything like Charlottesville ever again. And making them understand that if they do, these will be the consequences,” Kaplan told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in January, 2021.
Kessler responded on Telegram to this issue.
“Imagine how dumb you'd have to be to be an Antifa who thinks a civil suit is gonna ‘wreck’ people who can’t afford attorneys. How boneheaded to believe in a fake ‘conspiracy’ rich attorneys use to fleece millions in donations,” he wrote.
Furthermore, the lynchpin of Kaplan’s lawsuit is the claim that organizers planned the rally with the purpose of committing violence. The independent Heaphy Report, which plaintiffs have desperately tried to avoid being introduced as evidence in the case, proves this accusation to be a blatant falsehood.
Other notable juror cases included a woman who was dismissed for cause as she was a friend of a man who is almost certainly identified as black activist DeAndre Harris, as well as a woman who said she was friends with Heather Heyer, the Antifa activist who died in a traffic accident after the rally was dispersed.
Another dismissed by the judge for cause was an active FBI agent stationed at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va., who said he had made his judgments on the liability of the defendants, expressed hostility to former President Trump, and said he couldn’t be impartial.
Notably, two jurors who were not struck for cause said they have neither seen anti-Semitic prejudice and that prejudice against Jews isn’t a problem. Several jurors said they were primarily concerned with prejudice against White people, and that Confederate memorial statues are about Southern heritage.
One notable juror said prejudice against White people is pervasive in the media and culture. While he is likely to be struck by the plaintiffs, it will remove one more of their strikes.
A number also expressed negative impressions of Black Lives Matter, saying the proper slogan should be “All Lives Matter.” One said he believed counter-protesters came to the peaceful event armed and ready to engage in violence.
Jury selection continues Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET. The trial is expected to last four weeks.