- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2018

Chris Cantwell, a white nationalist accused of pepper-spraying people during an August rally in Charlottesville, Va., has lost his bid for a change of venue.

Mr. Cantwell, 37, is slated to be tried in Albemarle County Circuit Court this month for allegedly discharging pepper spray during a torch-lit rally at the University of Virginia held by white nationalists on the eve of the infamous Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” protest in downtown Charlottesville.

Defense attorney Elmer Woodard had asked to have the case relocated, alleging it was less than likely his client could receive a fair trial locally given the notoriety he gained following the back-to-back far-right rallies in the county seat last summer.

But Judge Cheryl Higgins declined Wednesday to approve a motion seeking a change of venue. Instead, she said she would take the request under advisement, effectively keeping the case in Albemarle County unless the court can’t find an impartial jury, local media reported.

“Court did not go well,” Mr. Cantwell wrote on Gab, a social network he uses. “I am less than surprised,” he added.

Indeed, the same judge ruled similarly a day earlier in the case against Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who organized the “Unite the Right” rally and is currently facing unrelated criminal charges in Albemarle County as well.

Mr. Kessler, 34, faces one count of felony perjury brought in response to a sworn statement he made with a local magistrate last January. Mr. Kessler was the key architect of the “Unite the Right” rally held seven months later, and his attorney also argued, albeit unsuccessfully, that negative media coverage his client subsequently received would make it difficult to find an impartial jury around Charlottesville.

Mr. Cantwell, meanwhile, faces charges more directly related to Mr. Kessler’s “Unite the Right” protest. Prosecutors alleged that Mr. Cantwell discharged pepper spray during a torch-lit rally the night before “Unite the Right” in which throngs of white nationalists were seen shouting anti-Semitic slogans on the University of Virginia campus.

Mr. Cantwell’s participation in both rallies was profiled in a widely hailed documentary released by Vice News last August. He subsequently earned the nickname “Crying Nazi” after sobbing in a viral internet video he shared online after learning he was wanted by authorities.

Mr. Cantwell’s trial is currently slated to begin Feb. 12. He faces two felony counts of illegal use of a chemical agent, and faces five to 20 years imprisonment if convicted of both.

Three people ultimately died in connection with “Unite the Right,” including two state troopers killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the chaos and Heather Heyer, a counterprotester killed while demonstrating against white supremacists.

“I think it was more than justified,” Mr. Cantwell told Vice afterwards with respect to Heyer’s death.


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