Good help can be hard to find.
Good legal help, when you are a white nationalist, can be even more difficult to come by.
At least three defendants in the federal civil suit stemming from the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August can’t find legal representation.
Five other defendants in the lawsuit — Daily Stormer website operator Andrew Anglin and his company, Moonbase Holdings, Austin Gillespie, also known as Augustus Sol Invictus, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the East Coast Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — have yet to file any response to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs, a group of 13 people hurt or attacked during the rally, seek compensation and punitive damages and ask the courts to intervene with legal orders preventing a repeat of the deadly events that occurred in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, and barring use of private militias at such events.
Going without a lawyer isn’t entirely uncommon. The National Center for State Courts, in a 2006 report, found a rise in the number of pro se litigants, particularly in divorce and family cases.
The Center also noted that defendants in trials with a political orientation tend to participate in the proceedings more than defendants in non-political cases. That’s because they may have greater ability to depart from courtroom norms to speak to about their beliefs and moral issues.
Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman of Daly City, California, who filed a response on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, wrote to U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon that he was having difficulty finding a lawyer in Virginia.
Spencer and Peinovich, in their similar legal filings, wrote that they’ve not been able to find legal counsel in Virginia, despite what they called an “ethical obligation” by attorneys to represent unpopular opinions.
While exploring the issue in some cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has not declared an absolute right to legal representation in all civil cases, unlike criminal proceedings where public defenders can be appointed.
The choice of self-representation isn’t particularly popular on the alt-right.
Jason Kessler, the Charlottesville, Virginia, alt-right activist who organized the “Unite the Right” rally, took to Twitter and Gab on Thursday to criticize the decision to go without a lawyer.
“I don’t think it’s about money,” wrote Kessler, who does have an attorney, Elmer Woodard of Blair, Virginia. “It’s about being so proud that you’d rather sabotage your own legal case, cause & career than say you’re sorry & ask for help. I hate to call people out publicly but this is so stupid it has to be acknowledged.”
It’s the latest sign of tension between Spencer and Kessler when the rift between the two went public after the rally. Kessler, in a since deleted tweet, insulted 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed when 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., drove his car into a crowd, striking her.
Spencer later conceded that Heyer “did nothing wrong” and called for alt-right adherents to have nothing to do with Kessler.
Others on social media were critical of the lack of legal representation. A Twitter user known as “Raschan” questioned why attorneys won’t take up Spencer’s case.
“Tf? Even islamist terrorists get lawyers,” Rashcan wrote. “Not to mention rapists. Do they rather defend rapists than someone who is pro-white?”
Twitter user Jonah Solomon was less charitable.
“maybe its because Spencer cant afford one. I don't think peddling hipster white nationalism is all that lucrative,” Solomon wrote on Thursday.
Neither Spencer nor Peinovich tweeted about their decisions to file pro se or inability to get lawyers.
Kyle Bristow, a Michigan attorney and white nationalists who has represented Spencer’s racist booking agent in cases against universities across the country, declined to comment when asked if he is assisting Spencer and Peinovich or has sought to help them find legal representation.
Spencer and Peinovich wrote remarkably similar briefs, citing the same three cases and using similar expressions to describe the lawsuit against them.
Both cited “lawfare,” a term used to characterize the idea that the courts are being used to bankrupt or shut down unpopular ideas.
And, both used their responses, filed Tuesday and Wednesday, to call for the lawsuit to be dismissed, saying it lacks merit.
“Their obvious aim is to try to make at least one claim of wrongdoing stick against at least one person, then destroy every other pro-monument person who attended the demonstration by linking them to the wrongdoer via conspiracy allegations,” Peinovich wrote.
No hearing has been set on the pro se motions to dismiss.