A federal judge has issued an arrest warrant for a neo-Nazi podcaster who promoted and attended a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that erupted in violence three years ago.
U.S. District Judge Norman Moon said Monday that Texas resident Robert “Azzmador” Ray has been in “total disregard” of court orders in a lawsuit against him and other far-right extremists and groups associated with the Unite the Right rally in August 2017.
Moon agreed to hold Ray in civil contempt of court and ordered him to be arrested and brought to Virginia, where the judge said Ray would be jailed until he is questioned under oath by attorneys for the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.
The court ordered Ray to appear on a video conference earlier Monday for a deposition by plaintiffs’ lawyers. It was the third time he has failed to show up for a deposition.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Ray has not seen fit to appear today as ordered or has taken any steps at all to comply,” the judge said. “I see no alternative but to issue a bench warrant for Mr. Ray’s arrest.”
Ray already was wanted on a criminal charge stemming from a torch-lit march through the University of Virginia’s campus on the eve of the rally, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Jessica Phillips, told the judge. A warrant for Ray’s arrest was issued in June 2018 after a grand jury indicted him on a felony charge that he illegally used pepper spray on counterprotesters during the march, according to Phillips.
Phillips said it is “unbelievably galling” that Ray has been active on social media and posting his podcasts online while defying court orders and withholding a “trove” of documents relevant to the litigation.
Ray would be the second defendant in the civil case to be jailed after being held in contempt of court by Moon. Elliott Kline, who served as leader of a white nationalist group called Identity Evropa, was briefly jailed in January for failing to comply with court orders.
Violent street clashes broke out in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, before a man fascinated with Adolf Hitler plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Lawyers for victims of the Charlottesville violence sued several rally organizers and participants, who claimed to be protesting the city’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Ray didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking his comment on the judge’s decision.
Integrity First for America executive director Amy Spitalnick, whose civil rights group is backing the lawsuit, said Ray was “central to the violent conspiracy” that led to Heyer’s death, as well as injuries to other counterprotesters.
“Our suit makes clear that there will be serious consequences for this racist violence — and that no matter how these defendants try, there is no running from accountability,” Spitalnick said in a statement.