A federal judge has issued an arrest warrant for a neo-Nazi podcaster who promoted and attended a white nationalist rally that erupted in violence three years ago.
U.S. District Judge Norman Moon said Texas resident Robert “Azzmador” Ray has been in “total disregard” of court orders in a lawsuit against him and other far-right extremists and groups associated with the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
Moon on Sept. 14 held Ray in civil contempt of court and ordered him to be arrested and brought to Virginia, where the judge said Ray would be jailed until he is questioned under oath by attorneys for the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.
The court had ordered Ray to appear on a video conference earlier that day for a deposition by plaintiffs’ lawyers. It was the third time he has failed to show up for a deposition.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Ray has not seen fit to appear today as ordered or has taken any steps at all to comply,” the judge said. “I see no alternative but to issue a bench warrant for Mr. Ray’s arrest.”
Ray already is wanted on a criminal charge stemming from a torchlit march through the University of Virginia on the eve of the rally, plaintiffs’ lawyer Jessica Phillips told Moon. A warrant for Ray’s arrest was issued in June 2018 after a grand jury indicted him on a felony charge that he illegally used pepper spray on counterprotesters during the march, according to Phillips.
Phillips said it is “unbelievably galling” that Ray has been active on social media and posting his podcasts online while defying court orders and withholding a “trove” of documents relevant to the litigation.
Ray would be the second defendant in the civil case to be jailed after being held in contempt of court by Moon. Elliott Kline, who served as leader of a white nationalist group called Identity Evropa, was briefly jailed in January for failing to comply with court orders.
Violent street clashes broke out in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, before a man fascinated with Adolf Hitler plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a woman. Lawyers for victims of the Charlottesville violence sued several rally organizers and participants, who claimed to be protesting the city’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Ray didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking his comment on the judge’s decision.
Integrity First for America executive director Amy Spitalnick, whose civil rights group is backing the lawsuit, said Ray was “central to the violent conspiracy” that led to the death of Heather Heyer and injuries to other counterprotesters.
“Our suit makes clear that there will be serious consequences for this racist violence – and that no matter how these defendants try, there is no running from accountability,” Spitalnick said in a statement.
Ray hosts a podcast and has been a frequent writer for The Daily Stormer, an influential neo-Nazi website created and published by Andrew Anglin, who also is a defendant in the lawsuit and hasn’t participated in the case.
The October 2017 lawsuit, which is set for trial next year, said Ray exhorted the website’s readers to attend the rally and had a planning meeting with event organizers in Charlottesville a day before the street violence erupted. Ray referred to the rally as a “war and not a party,” Phillips said.
“Having thousands of nationalists come out for this rally will put the fear of god into the hearts and minds of our enemies,” Ray and Anglin wrote in one post, according to the lawsuit.
-MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press