In August 2017, hundreds of white nationalists traveled from across the country for the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, marched on a university campus in a torchlit rally and attacked community members and protesters around the city.
By the time the unrest was quelled, one of the neo-Nazi protesters had plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist marchers, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Among those who helped rile up the far-rightists ahead of the rally was Robert Warren Ray, a 54-year-old white nationalist podcaster from Texas. A staple on the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, Ray had also brawled with counterdemonstrators and sprayed some with mace during the Aug. 12 unrest.
On Tuesday, 11 jurors in the Western District of Virginia sided with the plaintiffs, among whom were activists, students, clergy and bystanders who sued the white nationalists and far-right groups behind the Charlottesville rally. Jurors award the plaintiffs more than $25 million in damages. (Still, the jury deadlocked on two federal conspiracy charges, the New York Times reported Tuesday.)
Ray alone has been ordered to fork over $500,000, as have four other defendants, over the violence that struck the Virginia city four years ago. He was also among five defendants the jury found guilty of racially harassing two of the plaintiffs.
The Unite the Right rally had been called in response to Charlottesville’s decision to remove the town’s stature of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Hundreds of white nationalists and neo-Nazis descended on the city, and violence erupted around town.
Ray, who has been on the lam for years, didn’t show up to face the accusations. In July, the U.S. Marshals Service told the Observer they had picked up a warrant for Ray’s arrest and that was still on the run.
Known online as “Azzmador,” Ray had urged far-right protesters to carry out violence in the city in the lead-up to the rally. During the mayhem, he told a Vice reporter that Charlottesville was “run by Jewish communists and criminal n*****s.”
Later, he boasted that white nationalists “greatly outnumbered the anti-white, anti-American filth,” referring to counter-protesters, adding: “That which is degenerate in white countries will be removed.”
Ray later dodged several court appearances over cases related to Unite the Right. In September 2020, U.S. Judge Norman Moon issued a bench warrant for Ray’s arrest, describing him as being in “total contempt” of the court.
Ray has lived around Texas for years, including in Tyler, Frankston and Irving, among other places, according to public records.
He also has a lengthy rap sheet, with felony and misdemeanor charges around Texas and some here in Dallas.
According to police records, Ray was arrested in Dallas for illegally selling pornographic videotapes in 1990. In 2004, Dallas Police officers pulled over Ray and found him in possession of crack cocaine.
Elsewhere, Ray had faced a slew of charges over the decades: weapons charges, drunk driving, disorderly conduct, drug possession, theft, assault and evading arrest, among others.
Vanguard America, a now-defunct neo-Nazi outfit from which the far-right, Texas-based Patriot Front later emerged, was also among those named in the civil lawsuit in Charlottesville. Patriot Front remains active in North Texas and beyond, often putting up racist and anti-immigrant stickers and fliers.
Other defendants included alt-right leader Richard Spencer, Christopher “the Crying Nazi” Cantwell and Unite the Right’s main organizer, Jason Kessler.
“This case has sent a clear message: violent hate won’t go unanswered,” Amy Spitalnick, the executive director of the civil rights nonprofit Integrity First for America, said in a press release.
“This case has sent a clear message: violent hate won’t go unanswered.” – Amy Spitalnick, Integrity First for America
“There will be accountability,” Spitalnick added. “These judgments underscore the major financial, legal, and operational consequences for violent hate – even beyond the significant impacts this case has already had.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based hate monitor and civil rights group, also celebrated Tuesday’s verdict.
“The white supremacist rally-turned-deadly riots in Charlottesville was both the culmination of a hate-filled movement that had been building in our country and the violent beginning of a new chapter of extremism in this nation’s history,” Margaret Huang, the SPLC’s president and CEO, said in a press release.
In 2020, the SPLC recorded 838 hate groups around the country, including 54 in Texas. Those groups include white nationalist organizations, neo-Nazi outfits, anti-Muslim groups and others. After the verdict, Huang warned that “much work lies ahead to ensure the deadly hatred experienced in Charlottesville never happens again.”
James Alex Fields Jr., who carried out the deadly car ramming in Charlottesville, is currently serving multiple life sentences. On Tuesday, he was also found liable for causing $12 million in punitive damages on top of hundreds of thousands in medical-related fees, according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, Ray is still nowhere to be found, the Daily Beast reported this week.