Patriot Front Replaces Lawyer of Choice With Extremist
Patriot Front members have replaced their former first-choice lawyer Brent Gleason with Jason Lee Van Dyke in recent months, according to court documents, leaked chats, sources with knowledge of the group’s internal workings, and online materials reviewed by Hatewatch.
From late 2021, members of the group with legal difficulties in Texas, where Patriot Front’s leadership is based, began employing Van Dyke, where previously Gleason had been the only known attorney employed by members of the group in that state. At least two members replaced Gleason in favor of Van Dyke in the middle of proceedings, after members’ complaints about his advocacy led Patriot Front’s leader, Thomas Rousseau, to exclude “Harrison TX” – which Hatewatch has established as Gleason’s movement alias – from the group’s chat servers.
Additionally, sources with insider knowledge of the group have told Hatewatch that Van Dyke is not simply Patriot Front’s lawyer of choice, but also a member. Evidence obtained from Patriot Front communications and reviewed by Hatewatch indicate that Van Dyke has participated in the group’s internal chats under the alias “John TX.” However, Van Dyke denied to Hatewatch that he is the person behind the pseudonym or that he is involved in Patriot Front, beyond serving as its legal counsel.
Van Dyke has so far proved his worth in a number of proceedings involving members of Patriot Front, including keeping a Patriot Front member accused of a violent felony in Texas out of jail after he was arrested with other Patriot Front members in Idaho.
Brent Gleason: Patriot Front’s former first-choice lawyer
Gleason, 38, of Garland, Texas, had acted as a lawyer for Patriot Front members in a range of cases for more than two years, court records from several jurisdictions show.
Most prominently, Gleason represented Patriot Front founder Thomas Rousseau when he was deposed in the civil suit Sines v. Kessler in October 2019 and July 2020. This lawsuit was brought against organizers and participants in the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Denton County, Texas, jail records indicate that Gleason paid an attorney bond of $1,500 for the release of Austin J. Amato and $2,000 for the release of Tristan M. Yeager on May 23, 2021. Hatewatch reported in June that the pair were arrested and charged in Sanger, Texas, after a Patriot Front propaganda banner they were hanging caught fire and fell into the traffic lanes of Interstate 35. Amato’s and Yeager’s prosecutions are ongoing.
Williamson County, Texas, court records indicate that as of May 21, 2021, Gleason was listed as attorney of record for Antonio Barr. Hatewatch reported in March that Barr – one of six men hospitalized after another member died in a car crash in Utah – was arrested in Round Rock, Texas, on May 16, 2020, and charged with a misdemeanor graffiti offense. A spokesperson for Round Rock Police Department confirmed that the graffiti was a Patriot Front propaganda slogan. Barr’s charges were dismissed on June 14, according to court records.
Gleason acted as Steven Derrick Tucker’s lawyer in the early part of his defense on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after an incident at his former home in Mesquite, Texas. Hatewatch previously reported that Tucker, now of Haslet, Texas, was charged by the Dallas County district attorney after a dispute over household chores allegedly escalated into Tucker brandishing a knife at his roommate and threatening to “fucking kill” him.
Earlier this year, however, some members of the group dropped Gleason as their attorney in favor of Van Dyke. Steven Tucker discharged Gleason as his attorney and appointed Van Dyke on June 15, according to Dallas County court records. And on April 26, Barr filed a motion to substitute counsel, at which time Van Dyke was listed as his lead attorney.
Leaked Patriot front online chats, published by Unicorn Riot in January, suggest some reasons for the transition to Van Dyke.
Complaints about Gleason’s alias ‘Harrison TX’
These internal chats, when cross-referenced with these court records, indicate both that Gleason was given a Patriot Front alias, “Harrison TX,” and that members were complaining about his representation ahead of his replacement by Van Dyke in these cases. This suggests that Gleason had insider status in the group, where a movement alias is usually only accorded to vetted members, according to public statements by leader Thomas Rousseau.
Evidence that “Harrison TX” is Gleason includes vociferous complaints about his work in an extended conversation between “Don TX” and “Jon UT.”
Based on Hatewatch’s analysis, which relied in part on public records, “Don TX” appears to be Steven Tucker, while “Jon UT” is Cameron Kathan Pruitt, 23, of Midway, Utah. Hatewatch determined that Tucker uses the alias “Don TX” by comparing booking photographs of Tucker from his multiple arrests with photographs of “Don TX” in the leaked chats. The photographs all appear to depict the same person. Hatewatch corroborated an antifascist group’s identification of Pruitt as “Jon UT” by comparing Pruitt’s mugshots with a leaked video of Patriot Front drills in Utah. The member Hatewatch identified as Pruitt is referred to by other members as “Jon.” Additionally, a source with inside knowledge of Patriot Front whose identity is being protected for their safety told Hatewatch that “Jon UT” is Pruitt.
On Nov. 28, Pruitt asked Tucker if he was headed to a Patriot Front rally in Washington, D.C., in early December. A Patriot Front rally at the National Mall took place six days after their conversation began, on Dec. 4. Tucker responded that he was unsure because of “a situation that Harrison” was helping him with and that he would “have news on the 30th.” Tucker was due in court on Nov. 30 according to Dallas County court records, which also name Gleason as his attorney.
On Nov. 29, Tucker wrote to Pruitt: “I heard he slipped up working on something with you. Tom has me on his ass to make sure he keeps his feet moving.”
Pruitt had been arrested in Weatherford, Texas, in August 2020 along with Thomas Rousseau and another Patriot Front member, Graham Whitson, for posting racist flyers on private property.
Pruitt replied, “He almost fucked my entire career is what the ass wipe did,” adding: “From what I hear he already screwed you over. The cocksucker knew you were in jail and didn’t tell a single one of us. We Could have bailed you out no problem.”
Pruitt then redoubled his criticisms of “Harrison TX,” writing: “That fucker put my career in jeopardy. He didn’t communicate worth shit, and if he’s willing to fuck me over a ‘brother’ then who else won’t he also screw over?”
At that time, Pruitt was registered as a security guard in Utah. Utah code requires “disciplinary action” against registered security guards who have engaged in “unlawful conduct,” with the possibility that their license will be revoked. On June 29, Utah’s Department of Professional Licensing issued an order preventing Pruitt from working as a security guard in the state until his charges of conspiracy to riot, arising from his alleged participation in Patriot Front’s attempt to disrupt a Pride parade in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, last June. There, Pruitt was among 31 members of Patriot Front who were arrested.
Tucker did not change his representation until June 15, after his own arrest in Idaho on June 11 led Dallas County prosecutors to ask for his bond conditions to be changed. After this first new development in his case since his conversation with Pruitt, Tucker discharged Gleason in favor of Van Dyke.
In the 2021 chats, Pruitt’s complaints led Rousseau to respond to him on Nov. 30 in a private message. “I get that you’re still mad about the Harrison thing,” Rousseau wrote, adding that he had “sent [Gleason] an ultimatum” and that he had not yet excluded him from Patriot Front’s servers because “I’ve been waiting for a response because I want him to read it so he understands.”
On Dec. 1, Rousseau removed “Harrison TX” from Patriot Front’s chat servers, according to the leaked chats.
Other material from the leaked chats corroborates that Gleason was the person behind the “Harrison TX” alias.
Hatewatch’s investigation of Austin Amato’s and Tristan Yeager’s arrests corroborated reports made by activists that identify “Adam TX” as Amato and “Michael TX” as Yeager. In messages to a chapter leader in Texas in November 2021, a member using the alias “Adam TX” identified “Harrison TX” as his lawyer, writing, “He is in charge of my court case so I hope all is good.” Gleason is the only recorded attorney who was involved in their cases.
On Dec. 1, 2021, Rousseau shared a telephone number with a Dallas County area code with Amato and Yeager, writing that it was “Harrison’s number.” Hatewatch checked the number against several commercial data providers, and two matched it with Gleason, including one database that sources caller IDs from users’ phone contacts.
Meet Brent Gleason
Brent Gleason graduated from Texas A&M School of Law in 2012 and is currently barred in Texas. He was suspended by the State Bar of California in October 2020 over a failure to pay bar fees, according to the bar’s website. He has had two stints in public employment in Texas: In 2015 he worked for the Hunt County Attorney’s Office, according to published salary records, and the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office confirmed that Gleason worked there between December 2016 and April 2018.
In 2020, the secessionist Texas Nationalist Movement named Gleason as its general counsel in a Facebook post. That organization reportedly sent their self-styled “foreign minister” to a 2015 conference of far-right groups organized by Russian nationalist party Rodina.
In February 2009, Gleason was charged in California with annoying or molesting a child and simple battery, and at court he was acquitted on the first charge and sentenced to three months’ probation on the second.
Hatewatch emailed Gleason for comment on his history, including his apparent connection to Patriot Front.
In a return email, Gleason confirmed the charges in California and the disposition reflected in court documents, as well as his prior public employment. He confirmed the stint as general counsel for the Texas Nationalist Movement, but added, “I want to make clear that their goals were to make Texas an independent, self-governing nation using proper legal channels under the Texas Constitution.”
On Patriot Front, Gleason wrote, “I am not, nor have ever been a member or have had any association with any patriot front” [sic] and reiterated this denial at the end of the email. Gleason added, “Many of my clients are referrals from prior clients, who may have also been members of such groups.”
Hatewatch sent a second email asking if Gleason was specifically denying that he had been given a movement alias in Patriot Front, and if he was denying also that he had user access to the group’s chat servers.
Gleason replied, “Your email was the first I have ever heard of ‘Harrison TX,’ or even a chat server. I have never gone by that name or alias, or have any knowledge of being known by an alias.”
After Hatewatch first contacted Gleason, he apparently made most content on his Facebook page invisible to non-friends and appeared to remove his LinkedIn page from public view.
According to court records and commentary in the chats, Gleason was the only lawyer employed by Patriot Front members who encountered legal problems, until he was replaced by Jason Lee Van Dyke.
Shannon Reid is a criminologist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the co-author of Alt-Right Gangs, and a specialist on youth criminality and gangs. In a telephone conversation, Reid told Hatewatch that the apparently close relationship between Patriot Front and its lawyers, as well as the group’s practice of developing a close relationship with a single lawyer at a time offered “more consistent representation than they may get from a public defender or a series of new lawyers,” and perhaps additional trust in their representation if they saw their attorney as a “sympathizer and a believer.”
Amid disappointment with Gleason, one Patriot Front member was able to nominate an alternative whom he also depicted as a sympathizer with Patriot Front’s activism.
Pruitt continued: “You should hit up big John TX. He’s way better, reliable and won’t fuck you over. Also he’s a personal friend.”
Jason Lee Van Dyke: Lawyer with a history of extremism
Jason Lee Van Dyke is a lawyer who has been registered with the Texas bar since 2007. Van Dyke was previously identified by Local Denton as having appeared in court documents as attorney of record for several Patriot Front members. On July 1, 2022, he announced on Gettr, a social media site popular with white power activists and others on the far right, that he had been made partner in Marsala Law Group, a Denton, Texas, firm headed by Dominick Marsala.
Hatewatch contacted Dominick Marsala for comment on Van Dyke’s appointment as a partner in the firm he founded but received no reply.
Van Dyke has a long history of membership in far-right groups and of associations with far-right groups and actors.
For two years, he was a prominent member of the Proud Boys, a hate group founded by Gavin McInnes in 2016, and effectively acted as the group’s lawyer, repeatedly sending legal threats to media organizations that reported on the group. In October 2018, 10 Proud Boys were charged in connection with a brawl in New York City, and McInnes publicly claimed to have severed ties with the group. At that time, Van Dyke became the group’s chairman. Van Dyke’s new position brought renewed scrutiny to his online behavior, which reportedly included death threats. Thirty-six hours after he became chairman, he resigned and left the group.
Until 2021, when the Proud Boys’ role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol led to arrests and Congressional committee hearings on the group, Van Dyke held trademarks associated with the group.
In 2019, Van Dyke was vetted for membership of the white power accelerationist group The Base, according to reporting at Vice Media and a recording reviewed by Hatewatch. The group reportedly rejected his bid for membership. He was briefly suspended from the Texas bar amid an escalating series of legal actions between him and a long-term antagonist, Thomas Retzlaff.
The legal disputes between the men continued until Retzlaff’s death in 2021. Retzlaff died at his home in El Mirage, Arizona, and the Maricopa County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. The murder generated online buzz given that Retzlaff had previously accused Van Dyke of plotting his assassination, and Van Dyke has repeatedly responded to the chatter and consistently denied any role in Retzlaff’s death. Van Dyke has never been charged in connection with the homicide, and Hatewatch is aware of no evidence connecting him to the crime.
Patriot Front lawyer or Patriot Front member?
A source with insider knowledge of Patriot Front whose identity is being protected for reasons of personal safety first told Hatewatch that Van Dyke is not simply a lawyer members use, but is also a full member of the group, and that his movement alias was “John TX.” According to the source, Van Dyke marched with Patriot Front at a rally in D.C. in February 2020, and in July 2020 provided medical and legal advice to Patriot Front members before a rally in Chicago.
Hatewatch corroborated that Van Dyke was the person behind that alias, and that he had participated extensively in internal chats by reviewing earlier leaks of 2019 and 2020 conversations inside Patriot Front published by the anti-fascist Torch network in 2020.
On May 2019, “John TX” posted about information he had gotten from “Proud Boys telegram,” adding that “I was part of them until November, but I still get their updates.” The Proud Boys announced that Van Dyke had left the group on Nov. 30, 2018, which matches the detail in the post.
On Oct. 5, 2019, “John TX” engaged another chat member in a conversation about motorcycles, expressed a preference for Harley-Davidsons, writing: “I’ve had a sportster, a superglide, a deuce, an electraglide, and an ultra-classic. My current bike is a heritage classic.”
Data brokers indicate that Van Dyke has owned a string of Harley-Davidson motorcycles matching the details in that post, including a Deuce between July 2013 and June 2014; an Electra Glide between May 2014 and April 2016; an Electra Glide Ultra Classic between May 2016 and April 2017; and a Daytona Custom between February 2010 and March 2012. At the time of the post, Van Dyke owned a Heritage Softail Classic.
“John TX” also expressed political beliefs that match those subsequently aired by Van Dyke under his own name on pro-Trump social network Gettr, where he has an active account. On June 16, 2019, in a post simultaneously criticizing leftists and praising the white supremacist regime in the former Rhodesia, “John TX” posted in Patriot Front chats that “once they eliminate all the ‘Nazi’ farmers, it will be the ‘Nazis’ who look like Rhodesia and the SJWs who look like Zimbabwe.”
Van Dyke posted on Gettr on June 28 that in deposing that regime, citizens of Zimbabwe had “turned a functional industrialized nation into a brutal dictatorship which ran off all its farmers leading to mass famine.”
“John TX” also expresses a deep antipathy towards a former Denton City councilwoman who reportedly “spearheaded” a 2019 effort to remove Van Dyke from a position mentoring a gun club, the Texas Marksmen, at the University of North Texas.
On Aug. 13, 2019, “John TX” referred to the former councilwoman in Patriot Front chats as a “truly despicable human being.” Van Dyke has posted many times on Gettr about the same ex-councilwoman, referring to her variously as “demented,” “dangerous,” and a “communist Karen.”
In the chats, “John TX” repeatedly refers to Patriot Front using the pronouns “we” and “our,” suggesting that he considered himself a part of the organization. On Aug. 13, 2019, he wrote that an arrest that happened concurrently with a Patriot Front attempt to intimidate attendees at an anarchist book fair was “unrelated to our action.” On Feb. 12, 2020, “John TX” to a news story with the comment, “According to the [Anti-Defamation League], we are the biggest purveyors of pro-white propaganda. Congratulations brothers.” The propaganda activity detailed in the report and the ADL’s publication included potentially illegal activity.
As “John TX,” Van Dyke also indicated that he shared some of the group’s white nationalist views. On May 8, 2019, he posted, “My point is that I expect racially conscious mestizos and negros to band together to promote an anti-white agenda,” adding that “it has been my observation that the most virulently anti-white positions are driven in part by brained washed whites.”
White nationalists commonly recite the conspiracy theory that people of color and white liberals are united in an “anti-white” political project.
Denials from Van Dyke
Hatewatch emailed Jason Lee Van Dyke and asked him to comment on his relationship to Patriot Front, his apparent displacement of Gleason, and his history of membership in extremist groups.
Like Gleason, Van Dyke denied being a member of Patriot Front, and denied any ongoing involvement in far-right politics.
“There was a time in my life when I was involved in the far-right movement,” Van Dyke wrote, adding, “That period was from 1998 to 2018,” dating the end of his political activities to “the Proud Boys kicking me out [which] was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Van Dyke characterized his The Base vetting interview as an attempt at infiltration arising from his legal entanglements, claiming that he had received a tip “that Thomas Retzlaff was connected to The Base somehow, possibly using it to move pornography depicting underage persons.”
Van Dyke, however, has issued contradictory denials of involvement with extremist groups over a number of years. In December 2020, he told reporters who first revealed that his vetting interview had been recorded that “I simply don’t recall having these conversations. … I don’t know the source of these recordings.”
Patrick Riccards is executive director of Life After Hate, a nonprofit that helps people leave violent far-right groups. In a telephone conversation, Riccards told Hatewatch that Van Dyke’s behavior did not comport with that of individuals who successfully leave far-right movements.
Riccards said that if he had genuinely left, Van Dyke would likely alienate his clients in Patriot Front, and that “as a general rule, there are trust issues if you are not one of them.” He added, “if you’re not a soldier, it’s hard for you to gain their trust.”
Beyond his relationship with his clients, Riccards said that Van Dyke’s actions undermined the credibility of his denials.
“Based on everything we know,” Riccards said, “it doesn’t seem plausible someone has decided that they’re leaving the movement while they’re still in the movement.”
He added: “You can’t exit and continue to take their money and work with them. You need to take all of that and leave it behind and build something new.”
Riccards concluded, “If you’re an alcoholic, and you finally realize that you are going to kick alcohol, you can’t spend all of your time hanging out in bars.”
Photo illustration by SPLC