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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 19, 2019

Three Members of California-Based White Supremacist Group Sentenced on Riots Charges Related to August 2017 “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlottesville

Charlottesville, VIRGINIA – Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis, and Thomas Gillen, members of the white-supremacist organization formerly known as the Rise Above Movement (RAM), were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville for violence they committed as part of their conspiracy to riot, including at the August 2017 Unite the Riot Rally in Charlottesville, and other alleged political rallies in California. The announcement was made by United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen, Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey of the FBI’s Richmond Division, and Colonel Gary T. Settle of the Virginia State Police.

Daley, 26, of Torrance, Calif., was sentenced today to 37 months in prison. Gillen, 25, of Redondo Beach, was sentenced to 33 months in prison. Miselis, 30, of Lawndale, Calif., was sentenced to 27 months in prison. A fourth defendant, Cole Evan White, will be sentenced at a future date. All four defendants previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to riot.

“These defendants, motivated by hateful ideology, incited and committed acts of violence in Charlottesville, as well at other purported political rallies in California,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today.  “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.  I am grateful for the diligence and hard work of the FBI and Virginia State Police in bringing these violent white supremacists to justice.”

“The sentences imposed today demonstrate the U.S. Government’s intolerance of the use of violence, by anyone, to infringe upon the right of others to assemble peacefully,” Special Agent in Charge Archey of the FBI said today. “The FBI applauds today’s sentences and will continue to aggressively investigate allegations of such activity with its law enforcement partners.  We are grateful for the efforts and partnership of the Office of the U.S. Attorney and the Virginia State Police in this investigation.”

“Thanks to the concerted and dedicated efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Virginia, justice has been served this week for multiple individuals who perpetrated the violence and extreme hate witnessed during the events of August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Every one of their sentences should stand as evidence that Virginia has zero tolerance for such criminal activity.” 

According to court documents, Daley, Gillen, and Miselis, were members of RAM, a now-defunct, California-based, combat-ready, militant group that represented itself as part of the new nationalist and white supremacy movement. RAM openly identified as “alt-right” and “nationalist” and its members and associates frequently posted photographs and videos online of themselves engaging in physical training and mixed martial arts street-fighting techniques, along with messages and propaganda related to their alt-right, anti-Semitic, and white-supremacist views.  RAM members and associates espoused and committed acts of violence against those who they believed held opposing political views.

From March 2017 to August 2017, RAM and its members, including Daley, Gillen, and Miselis, traveled to multiple political rallies and organized demonstrations in Virginia and California where they prepared to, and engaged in, acts of violence.  RAM regularly held hand-to-hand and other combat training for members and associates to prepare to engage in violent confrontations with protestors and other individuals at purported political rallies.  They attended these rallies with the intention of provoking physical conflict with counter-protestors, which they believed would justify their use of force against the counter-protestors and shield them from prosecution for their acts of violence.  Daley, Gillen, and Miselis attended several such training events and rallies.

On March 25, 2017, Daley, Gillen, and Miselis attended a political rally in Huntington Beach, Calif., with several RAM members.  At that event, several RAM members pursued and assaulted groups of protestors and other individuals.  Following the rally, photographs depicting RAM members assaulting protestors and other individuals were covered on local news stations and on the “front page” of various Neo-Nazi and white-supremacist websites.  RAM members celebrated this coverage and used the internet to post statements, photographs, and videos of the assaults committed by RAM members at this rally to recruit members to engage in violent confrontations at future events.

On April 15, 2017, Daley, Gillen, Miselis, and other RAM members attended a rally in Berkeley, Calif.  The defendants and other RAM members were dressed in gray clothing, goggles, and black scarfs or masks to cover the lower half of their faces. Throughout the day, there were violent clashes between some rally attendees and individuals protesting the rally.  At one point, RAM members, including Daley and Miselis, crossed a barrier separating the attendees and the protestors, and assaulted protestors and other individuals.

In August 2017, Daley, Gillen, and Miselis planned to travel to Charlottesville to attend the Unite the Right Rally.  At the time of their travel, the defendants expected the event would become a riot and that their experience in riots at Huntington Beach and Berkeley would be valuable.

On August 11, 2017, the evening prior to the scheduled Unite the Right Rally, Daley, Gillen, and Miselis, and other members of RAM, joined hundreds of individuals in a torch-lit march on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  Throughout the march, participants chanted, “Blood and Soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!”  The march culminated near a statue of Thomas Jefferson where a small group of students gathered to protest white supremacy.  Violence erupted among the crowd, with some punching, kicking, spraying chemical irritants and swinging torches.  During and in furtherance of this riot, Daley punched multiple individuals. As part of their pleas, the defendants admitted these actions were not in self-defense.

On the morning of August 12, 2017, Daley, Gillen, and Miselis, and other members of RAM, with their hands wrapped in white athletic tape, were part of a large group of over 40 individuals seeking entry into Emancipation Park by way of Second Street when they were told by law enforcement to enter at a different location.  The group, including Daley, Gillen, Miselis, and other RAM members, turned, lined up, and began to make their way through a group of over 20 individuals who had come to the rally to protest against discrimination.  As they made their way through the group of protestors, the RAM members collectively pushed, punched, kicked, chocked, head-butted, and otherwise assaulted several individuals, resulting in a riot.  As part of their pleas, the defendants admitted these actions were not in self-defense.

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

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Updated July 19, 2019