CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A California man faces up to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the deadly August 2017 Charlottesville riot. Cole Evan White, 24, of Clayton, California pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to violate the federal riots statute.
“As Mr. White has acknowledged as part of his guilty plea, he and members of the Rise Above Movement (RAM) traveled to the ‘Unite the Right’ Rally in Charlottesville in order to engage in riotous conduct,” United States Attorney Thomas Cullen. “Although the First Amendment protects the rights of individuals and groups to assemble and protest peacefully, it does not give license to commit, attempt, or threaten acts of violence or otherwise engage in criminal activity. We are grateful for the hard work and dedication of the FBI and the Virginia State Police in bringing these defendants to justice.”
In court, White admitted he flew from California to Virginia in August 2017 to “engage in violent confrontations with protestors or other individuals at the upcoming events in Charlottesville.”
“Upon arriving in Charlottesville on August 11, 2017, White took a cab from the airport and met RAM members and several hundred other white supremacists gathered on the grounds of the University of Virginia for a torch-lit march on the evening prior to the Unite the Right rally. Throughout the march, participants chanted, “Blood and Soil!” and “Jews will not Replace Us.” The march culminated at the statute of Thomas Jefferson, where the hundreds of white supremacists surrounded a small group of counter protesters. Violence erupted among the crowd, with some individuals punching, kicking, spraying chemical irritants, swinging torches, and otherwise assaulting others, all resulting in a riot. Among that riot, White admitted today to swinging his torch and striking several individuals and that none of these acts of violence was taken in self-defense,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “The following morning, White, and members of RAM, attended the Unite the Right rally in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. White, [Benjamin] Daley, and other RAM members were part of a larger group attempting to gain entry into the park following a declaration of “unlawful assembly” by law enforcement.
“As they made their way through a group of protestors, White, Daley, and other RAM members, collectively punched, pushed, kicked, choked, head-butted, and otherwise assaulted several individuals resulting in a riot. White admitted to personally committing multiple acts of violence. For example, after having already made his way through a group, White turned around and observed a protestor blocking the sidewalk by holding onto a street sign. White walked back, grabbed the individual by the shoulders, and punched him until he released the sign. White then head-butted a male who he perceived was in his way. Finally, White head-butted a female protestor who was present on the sidewalk, resulting in a laceration to her face.”
“Mr. White’s guilty plea today should signal to our Virginia communities that the FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to keeping them safe and ensuring the events of 2017 in Charlottesville never happen again,” FBI Richmond Division Special Agent in Charges Adam S. Lee said.
Federal charges remain pending against co-conspirators Daley, Thomas Gillen, and Michael Miselis.