Richard Spencer’s right-wing think tank ordered to pay $2.4m to man severely injured at Charlottesville rally

·3 min read
Confederate Monument Protest Lawsuit (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Confederate Monument Protest Lawsuit (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

White nationalist Richard Spencer’s far-right think tank has been ordered to pay $2,4m to an Ohio man after he was gravely injured at the white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.

Bill Burke from Athens, Ohio said he was hit by the same car that killed counter-protester Heather Heyer.

Federal Judge Michael Watson issued a ruling on Tuesday that ordered the National Policy Institute, a think tank led by Spencer, to pay Mr Burke $2,4m. Mr Burke has accused the think tank of organizing and promoting the Charlottesville rally.

White supremacists were protesting the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee. Mr Burke said he was present to join a counterprotest.

He sustained injuries to his head and knee, and his left arm was crushed in the incident. The damage may be permanent and still requires medical treatment years later.

According to Mr Burke’s federal lawsuit from May 2019, he experienced “severe psychological and emotional suffering”.

He sued several defendants and has already received court-ordered payments from David Duke, the former leader of the KKK, and The Traditionalist Worker Party. Duke paid Mr Burke $5,000 and the Worker Party were ordered to pay $10,000, the Associated Press reported.

The order for the National Policy Institute to pay $2,4m to Mr Burke includes $217,613 for medical expenses, $350,000 in punitive damages $500,000 for pain and suffering, and $1m for emotional distress.

The judge observed the fact that Mr Burke separated from his wife after the attack, that he was unemployed for more than a year, that he can’t exercise any more, that he suffers from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and survivor’s guilt after the death of Ms Heyer.

“The emotional toll this senseless attack has taken on Plaintiff is extreme. It has impacted virtually every aspect of Plaintiff’s daily life, and he deserves to be compensated for the harm,” the judge said.

Despite Tuesday’s ruling, it’s unclear if Mr Burke will ever get the funds from the think tank. Court records state that copies of Mr Burke’s complaints were served on the organization, no lawyer ever made an appearance in court. The group was found in default a year ago for not putting up a defence.

“It is important that the judgment is satisfied not only to compensate Bill for his damages but also to disrupt and dismantle an organization that attempts to portray white supremacy as an intellectual endeavour,” Mr Burke’s lawyer Michael Fradin said in a statement.

The rally, entitled “Unite the Right,” attracted hundreds of white nationalists to protest the removal of the Lee statue.

The car that killed Ms Heyer and gravely injured Mr Burke was driven by James Alex Fields Jr. He was convicted of first-degree murder. Fields was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years in July 2019. He is appealing his convictions. From Maumee, Ohio, Fields is also serving life sentences after he accepted a plea deal in a federal hate crimes case.