Four men have been charged for inciting violence at the 2017 Charlottesville rally, U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said during a news conference Tuesday.
Members of a California-based White Supremacist group, Benjamin Drake Daley, 25, Michael Paul Miselis, 29, Thomas Walter Gillen, 34, and Cole Evan White, 24 allegedly traveled to the Virginia Unite the Right protest last year “with intent (a) to incite a riot, (b) to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry on in a riot, (c) as having 'participated in violent encounters in Charlottesville."
The men were arrested in California after a complaint was filed by the FBI, alleging that the men had previously taken part in acts of violence at rallies in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, California.
The men arrived at court Tuesday for the first day of trial and face a maximum of 10 years in prison if found guilty.
“This case should serve as another example of the Department of Justice’s commitment to protecting the life, liberty, and civil rights of all our citizens,” Cullen said, adding that the trial could start as early as December.
Authorities decided the men’s alleged activities as representatives of the California alt-right group, Rise Above Movement, could be prosecuted under a federal statute on riots, instead of laws prohibiting hate crimes, but Cullen said there may be other charges against them.
According to the criminal complaint, which was filed under seal in August, the FBI used “open-source research,” including the Rise Above Movement’s public Twitter page, to help investigate the four defendants.
Hundreds of people descended on Charlottesville in August 2017 to protest the removal of a statue honoring Robert E. Lee, a commander of the Confederate Army in the U.S. Civil War, in what was billed as a Unite the Right rally.
The 2017 rally drew international attention when James Alex Fields Jr. was accused of driving into a group of people, leaving 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens injured. Fields was charged with the killing in June. He has pleaded not guilty.
U.S. President Donald Trump was criticized for waiting too long to address the right-wing violence in the southern college town, and then, when he did so, failing to explicitly condemn the white-supremacist marchers who ignited the melee.