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Press Release

Federal Grand Jury Indicts Four From California for Conspiracy to Violate Riots Statute

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
Charges Stem from 2017 Torch-Lit March on Grounds of the University of Virginia and Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville, VIRGINIA – A federal grand jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville has returned an indictment charging four California men with conspiring to violate the federal riots statue, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today.

The four defendants, Benjamin Drake Daley, 25, of Redondo Beach Calif., Thomas Walter Gillen, 24, of Redondo Beach, Calif., Michael Paul Miselis, 29, of Lawndale, Calif., and Cole Evan White, 24, of Clayton, Calif., were arrested on federal criminal complaints in the early morning hours of October 2, 2018. 

The indictment returned today charges each defendant with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal riots act and one count of traveling in interstate commerce from California to Charlottesville, Virginia with the intent to incite a riot, organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry on in a riot, to commit an act of violence in furtherance of a riot, or aid or abet any person inciting and participating in or carrying on in a riot.

According to the indictment, beginning as early as March 2017, Daley, Gillen, Miselis, and White began associating with a white-supremacist organization that eventually became known as the “Rise Above Movement” or “RAM.” RAM openly identified as “alt-right” and “nationalist” and its members and associates frequently posted photographs and videos of themselves engaging in physical training and mixed martial arts street-fighting techniques, along with references to their alt-right and nationalist beliefs and ideology.

The indictment alleges that RAM members and associates also expressed, through various social media platforms and other means, anti-Semitic, racist, and white supremacist views and promoted violence against those who they believed held opposing political views. From on or about March 2017 to on or about August 2017, RAM and its members, including defendants Daley, Gillen, Miselis, and Cole, traveled to multiple political rallies and organized demonstrations in Virginia and California where they prepared to, and engaged in, acts of violence.

As detailed in the indictment, on at least two other occasions the defendants are charged with traveling to political rallies in California with the intention of committing, participating in, or aiding and abetting one or more individuals in committing acts of violence. Those rallies include a March 25, 2017 event in Huntington Beach and an April 15, 2017 event in Berkley.

In addition, the indictment charges Daley, Gillen, Miselis, and Cole with taking actions during both the August 11, 2017 torch-lit rally on the grounds of the University of Virginia and the Unite the Right Rally the following day in and around the vicinity of Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The indictment alleges that all four defendants purchased flights prior to August 11, 2017 using debit and credit cards, to fly from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Charlottesville, Virginia. In addition, the defendants arranged to rent lodging within Charlottesville for the dates of August 11, 2017 through August 13, 2017

On or about the evening of August 11, 2017 on the grounds of the University of Virginia, the defendants participated in a torch-lit march and incited, promoted, or encouraged a riot and committed acts of violence. In addition, on August 12, 2017, the defendants attended the Unite the Right Rally in and around Emancipation Park in Charlottesville and, once again, incited, promoted, or encouraged a riot and committed acts of violence.                                                                                                         

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Virginia State Police. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh are prosecuting the case for the United States.

All four defendants made their initial appearances on the federal criminal complaint in California last week.  The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California remanded defendants Daley and Gillen to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service for transfer to the Western District of Virginia and until final resolution of the case.  The court also initially detained defendant Miselis but later ordered his release on a secured bond and home confinement.  The court, however, stayed Miselis’ release pending the government’s appeal to U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon in Western Virginia, who will make a final determination on Miselis’ eligibility for release pending trial.  Defendant White’s detention hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is scheduled for Friday, October 12.  Once the defendants are transferred to the Western District of Virginia—likely within the next one to two weeks—they will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe and/or District Judge Moon for arraignment and additional proceedings. 

A Grand Jury Indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated October 10, 2018

Civil Rights