In the most substantial lawsuit facing white supremacists involved in last year’s violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, numerous plaintiffs, dozens of defendants, and several attorneys on either side have made their names public.
One, though, has tried to remain anonymous: the lawyer for Mike Peinovich, a white supremacist who calls himself “Mike Enoch.”
The lawsuit accuses Peinovich of conspiring with fellow defendants to commit a range of crimes, including assault and battery. For weeks, an anonymous lawyer has helped him file nearly as many motions — to quash subpoenas, compel disclosures, and sanction the plaintiffs’ lawyers — as the rest of the defendants combined. Thus far, all of the motions have been denied.
Now, attorneys for the plaintiffs are attempting to unmask the white supremacist’s lawyer, who has preferred to remain in the shadows. In a motion filed last Thursday, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, led by Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn, requested the court’s help in identifying the attorney helping Peinovich’s case.
“Since the start of the case, Peinovich has claimed to be a pro se litigant; no attorney has entered an appearance on his behalf,” the motion reads. “Peinovich now admits that he has shadow counsel that ghostwrites his pleadings, but refuses to answer an interrogatory asking him to identify such counsel.”
The motion notes that such anonymity is often considered “unethical” in other courtrooms, and “smacks of the gross unfairness that characterizes hit-and-run tactics,” especially in terms of Peinovich’s motions filed directly against the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “This is exactly what Peinovich and his shadow counsel are doing here,” the motion states.
Peinovich’s decision to keep his lawyer anonymous is the latest wrinkle in a the lawsuit, brought on behalf of Integrity First for America. The lawsuit is arguably the broadest legal action against the white supremacists behind last year’s rally — and includes the alleged white supremacist killer of Heather Heyer among the numerous defendants.
Peinovich has denied prior requests for information on his lawyer, claiming apparent threats against the attorney. “Peinovich argues that purported unspecified threats from [antifa] justify the non-disclosure of his attorney’s identity,” the motion reads. However, he’s offered no evidence of any threats, and ignored the fact that other defendants’ lawyers haven’t been targeted. “Tellingly, Peinovich cites no authority to support this argument,” the motion adds.
Running on fumes
It’s unclear how the motion will proceed, but it’s not the only new hurdle facing the white supremacists included in the lawsuit. In a familiar refrain, white supremacist Richard Spencer recently revealed that his latest fundraising venture has — yet again — collapsed.
Spencer’s latest attempt to raise money for attorney fees for the Charlottesville lawsuit found him looking to Freestartr, a fundraising site that specifically catered to white supremacists, as well as anti-woman and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists and individuals like Jack Posobiec, who once reportedly held a “Rape Melania” sign.
The site was created by Chuck Johnson, who has previously helped neo-Nazi fundraising efforts elsewhere.
But as with Spencer’s attempts at Hatreon, MakerSupport, and FundedJustice before, it appears his presence on Freestartr was little more than abject poison, killing off both his own efforts and the site entirely.
Last week, shortly after Spencer joined, Freestartr announced that Stripe, the payment processing system it was using, had cut off Freestartr entirely. In a statement on the site, Freestartr claimed that “Silicon Valley Apartheid is real,” noting that it was now impossible to donate or obtain funds on the site — even though PayPal still allows white supremacists to raise funds for legal fees.
“This is not dissimilar from the ancient punishments of exile or death,” Johnson said.
Stripe did not respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment.
Unsurprisingly, Spencer promptly began a fresh round of complaints about his inability to raise funds to cover his piling attorney fees. In a podcast appearance on The Ralph Retort last week, Spencer moaned that “every time I would sign up for something, it would get banned… I’m not going to lie: It was quite detrimental to my ability to operate.” Being kicked off of the platforms, he said, “was awful.”
Spencer said he’s unsure where he will turn to to raise money; he’s discussed potentially looking to Bitcoin as a means to financial survival. But it’s obvious by now that traditional means of fundraising are all but shut to Spencer and his white supremacist cohort.
“At one point, say two years ago, Silicon Valley really was our friend,” Spencer said. Now, “what has happened in terms of the Silicon Valley attacks on us are, just, really bad.”
This article has been updated to clarify the podcast on which Richard Spencer appeared.