Klan leader’s communications sought in Charlottesville lawsuit

For years, David Duke has hidden many of his racist affiliations under the hood of the Ku Klux Klan.

Now, as part of a blockbuster suit filed over last summer’s racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, 10 plaintiffs want to know about the white supremacist’s affiliations leading up to the “Unite the Right” rally.

And Duke isn’t liking it.

Duke was served with a subpoena in late January, demanding he turn over to the plaintiffs all documents and communications related to the August 12 violent and deadly rally in Charlottesville.

The plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to order Duke to turn over all his text messages, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, direct messages on Twitter and messages on Discord involving the rally billed by racists as the capstone of the “Summer of Hate.”

Duke, who lives in Mandeville, Louisiana, and is acting as his own attorney, filed a motion on Monday asking the trial judge to quash the subpoena on the grounds it’s too vague, overly broad, unduly burdensome and irrelevant.

Duke didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The plaintiffs are attempting to make the case that the two-day rally was carefully planned by a large group of racist “alt-right,” militia, antisemitic, KKK and neo-confederates. Duke is described as a co-conspirator.

The suit specifically alleges Duke met the day before the rally with Robert “Azzmador” Ray, Christopher Cantwell and Elliot Kline, who uses the alias Eli Mosley.

At that meeting, the suit contends, Duke and the others planned and directed “the unlawful acts of violence, intimidation and denial of equal protection” under the law displayed at the Charlottesville rally,

In the days before, Duke took to Twitter to help raise travel money for Tim Gionet, known in the alt-right world as “Baked Alaska.” He had “advocated for racial and religious-based violence,” including “circulating an image of a Jewish woman in a gas chamber,” the suit says.

The night before the rally, when hundreds of torch-bearing alt-right and neo-Nazis marched through the University of Virginia campus, yelling racist chants, Duke posted pictures of the marchers. “Our people on the march. Will you be at #UniteTheRight tomorrow?” Duke said in his tweet.

Duke showed up for the rally, the suit says, standing alongside Proud Boys, KKK groups, followers of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, the Traditionalist Workers Party, the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, Vanguard America, the Nationalist Front and the League of the South.

But now Duke is attempting to distance himself from the “Unite the Right” rally and events surrounding it, including the vehicular homicide of a counter-protester.

In his new filing, Duke describes himself as a “non-party” to the litigation, although the court hasn’t ruled on that issue at this point.

He further describes himself as “an internationally known public figure” who does “hundreds of hours of radio programming every year” and gets hundreds of thousands of emails.”

“Production of the documents sought [by the plaintiffs] would be extremely difficult if not impossible and would subject [me] to undue burden and expense,” Duke wrote in the filing.

It’s not known, at this point, when the judge will rule on Duke’s motion, or whether that issue will involve a court hearing.

Plaintiffs in the federal civil suit are described as University of Virginia undergraduates, law students and staff, persons of faith, ministers, parents, doctors, and businesspersons — white, brown and black; Christian and Jewish; young and old.” 

The City of Charlottesville, along with several businesses and neighborhood associations, filed a separate civil suit against some of the same defendants in Virginia state court.

After the federal suit was filed on October 11, several of the defendants filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim.

In early January, a team of attorneys representing the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, with slight modifications.

The complaint says it should be “crystal-clear at the outset -- the violence in Charlottesville was no accident.”

The defendants, including Duke, “spent months carefully coordinating their efforts, on the internet and in person.”

They exhorted each other, the suit says, with talk about going to Charlottesville to defend the South and Western civilization “from the Jew and his dark-skinned allies.”

What happened in August in Charlottesville was a “coordinated campaign to intimidate, harass, incite, and cause violence to people based on their race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation,” the suit claims, describing Duke as a key player.

“In countless posts on their own websites and on social media, defendants and their co-conspirators promised that there would be violence in Charlottesville, and violence there was,” the suit says. 

Comments, suggestions or tips? Send them to HWeditor@splcenter.org and follow us on Twitter @Hatewatch.