A Bay Area man facing charges over allegations that he traveled to Virginia with the intent to incite a riot and commit violence at last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville will be detained until his trial, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Prosecutors say Cole Evan White, 24, of Clayton, and three other California men who also were charged this month, traveled to Charlottesville last year to join hundreds of white nationalists at a rally that quickly turned violent.
The men arrived at the rally, a protest for the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, prepared to engage in physical violence, having taped their fists “in the manner of boxers or MMA-style fighters,” according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
U.S. Atty. Philip Kearney argued during Monday’s hearing in U.S. District Court in Oakland that White should be detained based on the seriousness of the allegations against him and the likelihood that he would flee from prosecution.
White was pictured in screenshots of video taken at the rally allegedly using his torch as a weapon at least twice during the melee. He also grabbed a counter-protester by the shoulders and head-butted a clergyman and a woman in the scuffle, authorities said.
Prosecutors cited White’s international contacts and his recent trips to Europe to meet with leaders of the Ulster Aryan Alliance and the Scottish National Resistance as red flags indicating he poses a serious flight risk.
“This risk is strengthened upon consideration of the weight of the evidence and the defendant’s potentially lengthy sentence if convicted,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.
White’s defense attorney, David Cohen, argued in court documents that his client is a young man who lives with his family, is not a flight risk and should be released.
After hearing from both attorneys, Judge Kandis Westmore determined White to be a flight risk and a danger to the community and ordered that he remain in custody.
Authorities say White, Benjamin Drake Daley, 25, and Thomas Walter Gillen, 34, both of Redondo Beach, and Michael Paul Miselis, 29, of Lawndale are members of the so-called Rise Above Movement, a white supremacist group based in Southern California that espouses anti-Semitism, promotes “clean living” and meets regularly in public parks to train in boxing and other street-fighting techniques.
On Aug. 11, 2017, the four marched through the University of Virginia campus, carrying torches and chanting, “Blood and soil!” and “White lives matter.” The next day, more clashes erupted when hundreds of white supremacists assembled for a “Unite the Right” rally in downtown Charlottesville.
The four men had previously engaged in acts of violence at political rallies in Huntington Beach, Berkeley and San Bernardino, prosecutors said. If convicted, each faces up to 10 years in prison.
White resigned from his job at Top Dog, a hot dog eatery in Berkeley, last year after he was identified on social media as having participated in the rally and management questioned him about it.
“Cole chose to voluntarily resign his employment with Top Dog and we accepted his resignation,” Top Dog said in its statement last year.