The highlight of Wednesday’s proceedings in Sines v Kessler was watching pro se defendant Christopher Cantwell absolutely shred plaintiff Seth Wispelwey’s eyewitness testimony to the events of Aug. 11-12, 2017 at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
It was an embarrassing day for the plaintiffs, as Cantwell ably and wholly tore apart Wispelwey’s testimony and credibility, despite repeated objections by Jewish activist attorney Roberta Kaplan, which U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon repeatedly overruled.
This came after a day and a half of well-landed blows by plaintiffs, setting back gains and showing that Judge Moon is increasingly tired of plaintiffs tedious interrogation of defendants, trying to trip them up with word games.
First on the stand for the day was Marcus Martin, who was injured while blocking traffic on Aug. 12 in James Fields’ car accident.
Martin, a violent felon convicted of armed robbery and home invasion, was a fellow traveler of Heather Heyer and other Antifa counter-protesters.
Martin blames the day’s events for his failed marriage, for losing his prized Jordans, and his inability to play basketball since the UTR rally. However, while not entered into evidence, Martin has posted pictures of himself playing basketball in 2019 on his social media.
Martin, like so many plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ witnesses, displayed breath-taking recall when speaking to plaintiffs’ attorneys about what happened that day, but on cross admitted he just didn’t notice Antifa flags, weapons and flagpoles around him, much less the Antifa activists initiating violence against the peaceful, permitted rally-goers.
Next on the stand was Wispelwey, a left-wing activist and organizer who also is a Church of Christ ordained reverend, even though he could not answer under oath whether he believed Jesus Christ was without sin, or what happened to the Canaanites in the Old Testament.
On a now deleted podcast “Faith in the Struggle,” Wispelwey refused to denounce Antifa violence.
"They were community protectors with different tools. I won't say anything bad about them," Wispelwey said of Antifa at Charlottesville, though this wasn’t entered into evidence. No matter though once Cantwell had a chance to cross-examine.
At one point Judge Moon’s irritation boiled over during pro se defendant Richard Spencer’s cross of Wispelwey, when plaintiffs’ counsel objected to Spencer grilling Wispelwey on theology because it was "not relevant"
"I don't think most of the preceding (plaintiffs’ direct) testimony was relevant to the case at hand," Judge Moon shot back.
Kaplan became increasingly upset that Cantwell’s withering questioning revealed Wispelwey's Christianity to be an empty facade, a veneer covering for his anti-White, Antifa activism.
A pattern has emerged with plaintiffs presenting themselves, Antifa, counter-protesters as spreading love and peace, just wanting to stand up in public - but never engaging in violence or attack.
Cantwell’s cross-examination knocked a large hole in that presentation.
Cantwell showed Wispelwey endorsed the Antifa “diversity of tactics” – code for both violent and non-violent activism, and showed that Wispelwey is directly tied to Antifa.
He also revealed that Wispelwey was not a pastor of a church on Aug. 12 despite pretending to be one, and that most of his life has been in organizing not preaching.
Cantwell even showed that as a pastor since, he has written sermons based on things he read on the Antifa blog/Twitter account It's Going Down and others.
Cantwell brought into evidence that Wispelwey said that he is “against violence but that we shouldn't question the value of punching Nazis."
Cantwell quoted a Wispelwey tweet where he talked about “battalions of Antifa” doing “direct action” against the Charlottesville defendants, and multiple other social media posts advocating the use of Antifa tactics and completely impeaching his testimony, showing that he and the rest of the Antifa-associated inter-faith clergy physical blocked the entrance to Lee park.
He claimed under oath not to have seen weapons among counter-protesters, but he was shown social media posts where he praised Antifa for carrying “community defense tools” – which he was compelled to admit, after admonishment from Judge Moon, that he meant weapons.
Wispelwey danced around trying to sustain the fact that he loves Antifa – he once blasphemously tweeted “Antifa is Jesus” – but at the same time Antifa doesn’t exist.
"Does hate speech lead to physical violence because your friends engage in violence against hate speech?" Cantwell asked. Wispelwey mumbled a non-responsive answer.
Incredibly, although Wispelwey is a plaintiff claiming emotional injuries from UTR, Judge Moon stopped him before he was dismissed as a witness and asked, “I just want to clear something up. Did you receive any injury?"
“I was scuffed up but nothing that lasted for more than a day,” Wispelwey said.
The large and influential Western Chauvinist Telegram channel, which has been monitoring the trial, noted, “Cantwell reads a tweet from Wispelwey about him saying White comfort is White supremacy. Wispelwey said White supremacy is terrorism, so Cantwell asks if White comfort is terrorism. Wispelwey will not answer the question.
“Cantwell is doing a great job making Wispelwey look like an anti-White radical. The plaintiffs want Wispelwey to seem like a non-violent peaceful man of God who was standing against evil,” the channel posted.
The rest of the day was less climactic, with plaintiffs calling defendant Nathan Damigo to the stand.
Karen Dunn's questioning of Damigo was notably milder in tone and less combative than her previous appearances, much less that of her co-counsels.
Dunn did continue the pedantic word games until Judge Moon grew frustrated.
“[Damigo] has said lots of things in his life that are not material to this case,” Moon said. He concluded by advising her that this total waste of the jury's time is making her own case harder.
“I'll tell you, it's not helpful,” Moon said.
Once again, plaintiffs managed to establish that defendants have “controversial” political and racial beliefs, and that several worked together to plan a political rally that was permitted and upheld by a federal judge, but nothing establishing a conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence.
Because of the plaintiffs’ attorneys torturous and lengthy witness interrogations, word is that the trial will be extended at least another week, and the scheduled break for the Veteran’s Day holiday on Thursday Nov. 11 will be canceled.
As always, National Justice cautions readers that how testimony and evidence is received by outside observers is not necessarily how a jury will receive it. Predicting the outcome of a jury trial is always problematic for that reason.
The trial was originally expected to last two more weeks including this week, but word in the court room is now that it will go longer.
This is a civil trial and the jury consists of 12 members with no alternates. Jurors could drop out or be dismissed, but as long as six remain there can be a verdict.
The standard of finding here is a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt. A finding of liability in this court would require a unanimous verdict.
At heart in this case, is the 10 plaintiffs and their attorneys who 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 20 White nationalist organizations and individuals, including the Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin, Matt Parrot, Matt Heimbach, Jason Kessler, 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 linchpin of the plaintiff’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.