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Speaker at ‘Unite The Right’ Rally Charged

Virginia authorities have arrested and charged a white nationalist once prominent in the “alt-right” for his involvement in a torchlit march the night before the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Hatewatch has learned.

Augustus Sol Invictus, 39, faces one charge of burning an object with the intent to intimidate, according to documents from the Albemarle Circuit Court. The documents indicate that a grand jury indicted Invictus on April 3. Court documents list the date of Invictus’ alleged offense as Aug. 11, 2017, the same night that scores of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists staged a torchlit march on the University of Virginia campus. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Augustus Sol Invictus
Augustus Sol Invictus was jailed on April 21, 2020, after accusations of stalking his wife. (Booking photo via Orange County Jail)

Invictus was initially arrested in June in his native Orange County, Florida, and charged with being a fugitive from justice. The Albemarle Circuit Court lists Invictus’ arrest date as July 20. His first court appearance in Virginia was a bond hearing, held on July 25. Invictus was granted $7,500 bond. The court set a jury trial date of March 20, 2024.

Hatewatch reached out to Invictus over two different email accounts. He did not respond. Hatewatch also reached out to Invictus prior to publication over text message and did not receive a response.

Invictus was scheduled to speak at the Aug. 12, 2017, “Unite the Right” rally the day after the torch march, appearing alongside a slew of prominent white nationalists, neo-Nazis and far-right extremists, including Richard Spencer, Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, Jason Kessler, Matthew Heimbach and Anthime Joseph Gionet, who conducts his activism under the name “Baked Alaska.” Speeches never took place, as the day devolved into violence. Invictus appears to be the first scheduled speaker arrested and charged under the burning-objects statute.

Photos from the Aug. 11 torch march show someone who appears to be Invictus holding a tiki torch on the University of Virginia campus. An Aug. 19, 2017, report from The New York Times quotes Invictus as saying, “Somebody forgot the pitchforks at home, so all we got is torches” during the march.

Since April, a handful of other men have been charged under the same statute, including William Henry Fears IV of Texas; Dallas Medina of Ohio; William Zachary Smith of Texas; and Tyler Bradley Dykes of South Carolina. Medina was released on bond in April. Officials also released Smith, who pleaded guilty to burning an object with the intent to intimidate, in early May on a $10,000 bond. He is set to return to court for sentencing on Aug. 7.

James Hingeley, the commonwealth’s attorney for Albemarle County, said in a statement in April that the indictments “were issued as part of a criminal investigation that is active and ongoing.”

Invictus, who legally changed his name from Austin Mitchell Gillespie in 2006, has a long history of allegations of violence against women, as Hatewatch has previously reported. In January 2020, police in South Carolina arrested Invictus, after someone who said she was his wife told police that he had held her at gunpoint in front of their children and commanded her to accompany him to Jacksonville, Florida, as Hatewatch reported at the time. Shortly after Invictus was released from jail in South Carolina on charges related to the incident in January, he returned to Orange County, Florida. In late April the same year, law enforcement arrested Invictus on charges of aggravated stalking.

A civil suit filed against “Unite the Right” organizers identified Invictus as one of the organizers behind the Aug. 11 torch march. Court documents from the trial describes Invictus as having livestreamed the event.

The original complaint describes an incident in which one of the plaintiffs witnessed Invictus “harass and intimidate a friend” on the night of Aug. 11. The document goes on to state that Invictus then turned to the plaintiff, who is a reverend and had just come from conducting a religious service near the University of Virginia campus. Invictus, the complaint says, “kept moving forward” even as the plaintiff walked back. He then proceeded to hound the plaintiff “in a challenging and highly aggressive tone” in an effort to force him to reveal his church denomination, according to the complaint.

This January, over a year after the conclusion of the Sines v. Kessler civil trial, a federal court in Virginia partially granted a default judgment against Invictus, who declined to participate in the trial, for violating Virginia’s hate crime statute. The court also issued a default judgment against the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights (FOAK), a short-lived Proud Boys-affiliated group that Invictus helped lead, for violating a Virginia state civil conspiracy law.

Jason Kessler, one of the main organizers of “Unite the Right,” listed Invictus among the speakers for the Aug. 12, 2017, rally, in a June 7, 2017, message sent to prospective “Unite the Right” attendees on the messaging app Discord. In a subsequent message in the same chatroom, Kessler announced that Invictus had invited European white supremacist leader Martin Sellner and added that Brittany Pettibone, Sellner’s wife and a far-right YouTuber, was expected to attended.

“Augustus Invictus said he was going to try to bring Martin Sellner. Kyle CHapman [sic] said Pettibone coming as a journalist,” Kessler wrote.

Kyle Chapman, who became famous among the far-right for assaulting counterprotesters, is the founder of FOAK, the Proud Boys-affiliated group that Invictus helped run.

Hatewatch reached out to Kessler over text message for comment. He did not respond.

Richard Spencer, who attended the event as a headline speaker, has credited Invictus with drafting an early version of the “Charlottesville Statement,” a manifesto released in the run-up to the rally.

Spencer, in a request for comment, told Hatewatch that he was not aware of whether Invictus played a major role in organizing the Aug. 11 or 12th events and described the process of selecting speakers for the main “Unite the Right” rally as “disorganized.”

Photo illustration by SPLC

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