- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2020

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A leading white nationalist pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that he threatened to rape the wife of a person with whom he was having a dispute.

Christopher Cantwell, a New Hampshire resident who rose to prominence in 2017 after a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, is accused of using the Telegram messaging app to make the threat on June 16, 2019. The person with whom he was messaging hasn’t been identified.

The indictment alleges that Cantwell threatened to injure another person if the victim did not provide him with personal information about an unidentified third party.

The FBI tweeted that it arrested Cantwell, of Keene, on Thursday morning without incident. He faces charges of extortion and sending interstate threats and was arraigned Thursday afternoon in Concord.

Cantwell, dressed in a camouflage jumper, black pants and sneakers, pleaded not guilty. A judge ordered him held in federal custody at least until a detention hearing Tuesday.

Neither side provided further details in court. Cantwell’s lawyer, federal public defender Eric Wolpin, would not comment after the hearing.

Cantwell is set to go on trial March 3, and prosecutors said it could take four days.

Cantwell pleaded guilty in 2018 to assault after he was accused of using pepper spray against two counterprotesters during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Cantwell, who has hosted self-produced radio shows, also has history of posting threatening messages over social media.

In March, he wrote that he thought the Gab social media platform had banned him for a post after the deadly New Zealand mosque shootings in which he wrote, “I’m pretty sure it would be against the rules for me to say that would be mass shooters should find left wing activists and gun them down instead of random people in mosques and synagogues. So I won’t do that.”

Last year, attorneys who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in connection with the Charlottesville rally asked a judge to order Cantwell to stop making “unlawful threats” against the plaintiffs and their lead attorney.

In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, lawyers for 10 people who were hurt during the two days of violence in August 2017 said Cantwell had recently focused “his hateful rhetoric” on attorney Roberta Kaplan.

They allege that Cantwell, responding to an article about Kaplan in a Jewish publication, used an anti-Semitic slur on a social media website when referring to Kaplan and wrote that after she “loses this fraudulent lawsuit, we’re going to have a lot of (expletive) fun with her.”

Cantwell, responding to an email seeking comment on the motion to order him to stop making threats, used an anti-Semitic slur when referring to Kaplan and called the lawsuit a “(expletive) fraud.”

Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, a nonprofit organization funding the lawsuit stemming from the Charlottesville rally, welcomed the indictment.

“Today’s indictment describes only a tiny fraction of Cantwell’s horrifying track record of violence and bigotry,” she said in a statement. “Cantwell must face the consequences for his many other violent actions.”

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