A group of Charlottesville, Virginia, residents is asking a federal judge to block white nationalist and founder of Identity Evropa Nathan Damigo from protecting his assets by filing for bankruptcy.
The 10 residents filed suit in federal court in California on Jan. 30 to halt Damigo’s bankruptcy until the completion of a civil suit stemming from an Aug. 11, 2017, Tiki torch march at the University of Virginia and the activities surrounding the violent “Unite the Right” rally the next day.
In the Charlottesville lawsuit, the plaintiffs say Damigo and others conspired to hurt Jewish people and minorities. Damigo and the white nationalist group Identity Evropa also “took the lead” in organizing white supremacist groups leading up to “Unite the Right,” attorney Robert Eisenbach III wrote for the Charlottesville residents.
“Damigo’s conduct was wrongful, without just cause, and excessive,” Eisenbach wrote.
Damigo is one of two dozen racist and “alt-right” figures named defendants in the Virginia lawsuit. The plaintiffs are University of Virginia students and staff, along with ministers and business owners.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim economic, emotional and physical injuries as a result of the march and the racist rally.
The lawsuit is scheduled for trial from July 8 through Aug. 2 in Charlottesville. Plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.
Damigo, an Oakdale, California, resident, sought federal bankruptcy protection Jan. 2. In the petition, he listed the 10 plaintiffs in the lawsuit as potential creditors, but the amount owed to them as “unknown.”
Federal bankruptcy law bars people from seeking to discharge debts caused by “willful and malicious injury.”
Damigo is a familiar face in the alt-right movement.
During an event called “The Battle of Berkeley,” on April 15, 2017, Damigo hit a 95-pound antifa protester in the face. Things became so chaotic and violent that day that police fired tear gas into the crowd.
The alt-right created a meme based on that punch portraying Damigo as a hero and modern day warrior.
In the lawsuit, Eisenbach described the confrontation in Berkeley as a “test run” for “Unite the Right.”
At the torch-lit march at the University of Virginia on Aug. 11, 2017, racists chanted “You will not replace us,” a phrase adopted and popularized by Identity Evropa.
Damigo, who has a conviction for robbery, stepped down as head of Identity Evropa in August 2017. But the bankruptcy filing still lists the group’s base as Damigo’s address in Oakdale, California.
Damigo and Identity Evropa were involved in the planning for “Unite the Right,” but later tried to publicly distance themselves from the rally and its organizer, Jason Kessler.
In declaring bankruptcy, Damigo listed nearly all of his assets, including a 2006 BMW 325i valued at $2,532, a variety of woodworking and construction equipment valued at $1,764.18 and a golden retriever dog, which he valued at $500, as exempt from being sold to pay off creditors.
(In a separate part of the bankruptcy documents, he values that same golden retriever at $250.)
If Damigo loses in bankruptcy court and continues on with the bankruptcy process, it could expose his assets to being sold to settle any judgment against him in the civil suit.
By allowing Damigo to declare bankruptcy, the court could face more complicated legal issues later on, Eisenbach wrote.
Allowing Damigo to shield his assets in bankruptcy could force the bankruptcy court to hear much of the evidence in the Charlottesville case after the trial in Virginia. Delaying Damigo’s bankruptcy would save time and effort and eliminate the risk of the bankruptcy court in California and the civil court in Virginia from issuing contradictory rulings, Eisenbach wrote.
“Plaintiffs will bear the brunt of the prejudice and expense arising from dual litigation … because they will have to essentially prosecute the same case twice.”
“Unite the Right” ended before it officially got started, having devolved into a series of fights and a riot. Later in the day, 21-year-old James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring nearly a dozen other people.
Fields has been sentenced to life plus 419 years in prison and faces federal hate crimes charges.
A hearing date for the lawsuit has not been set.
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