CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Three members of a white supremacist group were sentenced Friday to between two and three years in prison for punching, kicking and choking anti-racism protesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia and political rallies in California.
Members of the now-defunct Rise Above Movement were caught on camera assaulting counterprotesters before a planned “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.
Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis and Thomas Gillen each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to riot. The men were sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville by Judge Norman Moon.
Daley, 26, of Torrance, California, was sentenced to 37 months in prison. Gillen, 25, of Redondo Beach, California, received a sentence of 33 months. Miselis, 30, of Lawndale, California, received 27 months.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said the men were motivated by “hateful ideology.”
“They were not interested in peaceful protest or lawful First Amendment expression; instead, they intended to provoke and engage in street battles with those that they perceived as their enemies,” Cullen said in a statement.
Members of the California-based Rise Above Movement frequently posted photographs and videos of themselves engaging in mixed martial arts street-fighting techniques along with messages related to the white supremacy movement.
In court documents, prosecutors said that from March 2017 to August 2017, RAM members — including Daley, Gillen and Miselis — engaged in acts of violence at rallies and organized demonstrations in Charlottesville and in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, California.
As part of their guilty pleas, the men acknowledged that they did not commit the acts in self-defense.
Attorneys for Miselis and Gillen did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.
Daley’s attorney, Lisa Lorish, said she and lawyers for Miselis and Gillen argued that prosecutors had not proved that a hate crime sentencing enhancement should apply in their cases. Lorish said Judge Moon denied the enhancement for all three men.
A fourth member of RAM, Cole Evan White, also pleaded guilty to a riot conspiracy charge and will be sentenced later.