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Judge slashes millions in damages due by hate groups that participated in Charlottesville rally

This July 8, 2017, photo shows members of the KKK escorted by police past a large group of protesters during a KKK rally in Charlottesville, Va. (Steve Helber/AP)

Judge slashes millions in damages due by hate groups that participated in Charlottesville rally

Barnini Chakraborty

January 04, 01:01 PM January 04, 01:01 PM

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A federal judge has drastically reduced the amount of money in damages that some of the country’s most prominent white supremacist groups were ordered to pay for their participation in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Judge Norman Moon ruled last week that the $24 million in punitive damages ordered by a jury in November 2021 be reduced to $350,000. Moon kept the compensatory damages at $2 million, bringing the total owed to $2.35 million — $23.65 million less than what the jury awarded.

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In his ruling, Moon cited a 1988 law that that caps the limit of civil damages to $350,000, saying that juries should not be told of the limit and that even if a jury returns a much harsher financial punishment, the judge should reduce it in accordance with the law.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond School of Law professor, told the Washington Post that the drastic cut could cripple the purpose of punitive damages, which are in place to rebuke a defendant’s bad behavior.

“The whole point is to send a message to society, to other people who might engage in similar future behavior of that sort,” he said. “And in this particular moment in time, that’s really important with the rise of white supremacists. That’s what’s really at stake.”

Hundreds of white nationalists showed up in Charlottesville on Aug. 11-12, 2017, for a rally pitched publicly to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. During their march on the University of Virginia campus, white nationalists chanted, “Jews will not replace us,” circled counterprotesters, and threw tiki torches at them.

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The lawsuit that followed was funded by Integrity First for America, a nonprofit organization formed in response to the Charlottesville rally.

The federal trial in Charlottesville, which began in the fall of 2021, lasted more than a month. The defendants repeatedly used the n-word, praised Adolf Hitler, and called for an all-white ethnostate.

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