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Two white supremacists plead guilty in deadly Charlottesville riot

The group was expecting violence

Battle lines form between white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' and anti-fascist counter-protesters during the 'Unite the Right' rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Battle lines form between white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' and anti-fascist counter-protesters during the 'Unite the Right' rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images (Getty Images)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Two white supremacists entered guilty pleas Friday morning for their involvement with the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. 

Benjamin Drake Daley and Michael Paul Miselis, members of the white-supremacist organization known as the Rise Above Movement, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville to one count of conspiracy to riot in connection with the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and other alleged political rallies in California.  

Daley, one of the founders of RAM, was chiefly responsible for organizing the group’s presence at the Unite the Right rally. 

According to plea documents filed during Friday's hearing, Daley, 26, of Redondo Beach, Calif., and Miselis, 30, of Lawndale, Calif., were members of RAM, a now-defunct, California-based, combat-ready, militant group that represented itself as part of the new nationalist and white supremacy movement.

They are the final two RAM members to plead guilty to federal riot act charges.  Cole White and Thomas Gillen each previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to riot. 

From March 2017 to August 2017, RAM and its members, including Daley and Miselis, traveled to multiple political rallies and organized demonstrations in Virginia and California where they prepared to, and engaged in, acts of violence.  

RAM regularly held hand-to-hand and other combat training for members and associates to prepare to engage in violent confrontations with protestors and other individuals at purported political rallies. They attended these rallies with the intention of provoking physical conflict with counter-protesters, which they believed would justify their use of force against the counter-protesters and shield them from prosecution for their acts of violence.  Daley and Miselis attended several such training events and rallies. 

On March 25, 2017, Daley and Miselis attended a political rally in Huntington Beach, Calif., with several RAM members. At that event, several RAM members pursued and assaulted groups of protestors and other individuals. Following the rally, photographs depicting RAM members assaulting protestors and other individuals were covered on local news stations and on the “front page” of various Neo-Nazi and white-supremacist websites. RAM members celebrated this coverage and used the internet to post statements, photographs, and videos of the assaults committed by RAM members at this rally in order to recruit members to engage in violent confrontations at future events. 

On April 15, 2017, Daley, Miselis and other RAM members attended a rally in Berkeley, Calif., Daley, Miselis and other RAM members were dressed in gray clothing, goggles, and black scarfs or masks to cover the lower half of their faces. Throughout the day, there were violent clashes between some rally attendees and individuals protesting the rally. At one point, RAM members, including Daley and Miselis, crossed a barrier separating the attendees and the protesters, and assaulted protesters and other individuals. 

In August 2017, Daley and Miselis, along with defendants Gillen and White, planned to travel to Charlottesville to attend the Unite the Right Rally. Daley and Miselis expected the event would become a riot and that their experience in riots at Huntington Beach and Berkeley would be valuable. 

On August 11, 2017, the evening prior to the scheduled Unite the Right Rally, Daley, Miselis and other members of RAM, joined hundreds of individuals in a torch-lit march on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  

Throughout the march, participants chanted, “Blood and soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!”  The march culminated near a statue of Thomas Jefferson, where a small group of students gathered to protest white supremacy. Violence erupted among the crowd, with some punching, kicking, spraying chemical irritants and swinging torches. During and in furtherance of this riot, RAM members hit multiple individuals with torches. As part of their plea, the defendants admitted these actions were not in self-defense.

On the morning of August 12, 2017, Daley, Miselis and other members of RAM, with hands wrapped in white athletic tape, were part of a large group of over 40 people trying to get into Emancipation Park by way of Second Street when they were told by law enforcement to enter at a different location. The group, including Daley, Miselis and other RAM members, turned, lined up, and began to make their way through a group of over 20 individuals who had come to the rally to protest against discrimination. As they made their way through the group of protestors, the RAM members collectively pushed, punched, kicked, chocked, head-butted, and otherwise assaulted several individuals, resulting in a riot. As part of their pleas, the defendants admitted these actions were not in self-defense.

A sentencing date has not been announced.