U.S. judge cuts damages imposed on organizers of 2017 'Unite the Right' rally

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: White nationalists participate in a torch-lit march on the grounds of the University of Virginia ahead of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) - A federal judge cut by millions of dollars damages that were imposed on organizers of the 2017 "Unite the Right" white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, citing a cap imposed under a local law.

In November 2021, a federal jury found the organizers of the "Unite the Right" rally liable for injuries sustained by counter-protesters and awarded about $24 million in punitive damages and $2 million in compensatory damages.

U.S. District Judge Norman Moon, however, ordered that the $24 million in punitive damages be reduced to $350,000, Virginia's statutory cap on punitive damages, according to a court filing of his opinion dated Dec. 30 and released on Wednesday. He upheld the $2 million in compensatory damages.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they were considering appealing the decision by Moon.

The nine plaintiffs in the case had said they suffered physical or emotional trauma at the rally, including four who were hit when self-described neo-Nazi James Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

The rally followed months of protests over the city's plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Hundreds of white nationalists traveled to Charlottesville in August 2017, with some marching on the University of Virginia campus carrying torches and chanting "Jews will not replace us!"

Then-President Donald Trump was criticized for initially saying there were "fine people on both sides" after the rally devolved into violent clashes.

President Joe Biden has frequently cited the torch-lit march and Trump's response as the event that precipitated his decision to mount another run for the White House, after two previous unsuccessful campaigns.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler)