Recovering $25M From Neo-Nazis Could Be a Problem

Those not in jail or in hiding say they're broke
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2021 8:51 AM CST
It Could Be Tricky Collecting $25M From White Nationalists
This photo provided by the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail shows Christopher Cantwell.   (Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail via AP)

A jury awarded more than $25 million this week to people who sued white nationalists over 2017's deadly Unite the Right rally in Virginia—but it's not clear how much of it plaintiffs' lawyers will be able to recover. Three of the five far-right groups named as defendants have now dissolved, and some of the individuals ordered to pay damages are in prison or in hiding, the AP reports. The Washington Post reports that almost $14 million of the compensatory and punitive damages were assessed against James Alex Fields, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder of Heather Heyer. Another defendant, "crying Nazi" Christopher Cantwell, is also in prison.

"I have no assets. I have no property. You can't get blood from a stone," says far-right activist Matthew Heimbach, who was ordered to pay $500,000 in damages. The founder of the "Traditionalist Worker Party," Heimbach says he works in a factory and lives paycheck to paycheck. The whereabouts of two other defendants, Andrew Anglin and Robert Ray, are unknown. Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, is believed to have significant cryptocurrency holdings out of reach of US authorities, Fortune notes. Yet another defendant, Richard Spencer, has called the lawsuit "financially crippling."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they are committed to recovering as much as possible, while lawyers for the other side say they will work to have the damages reduced. Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernadino, tells the AP that the chances of recovering at least some of the damages are good. "The thing that's different about this case is you have a wide array of defendants," he says. "Some of them are currently locked up or destitute, but they might have assets, (insurance) policies or real estate that could be recoverable," he says. (More white nationalism stories.)

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