Supreme Court Upholds Conviction of 2 Charlottesville Rioters

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
June 14, 2021 Updated: June 14, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 14 upheld the conviction of two members of a group billing itself as the “premier MMA (mixed martial arts) club of the Alt-Right,” but which one extremist watchdog described as a “racist fight club” whose members engaged in violent acts at a 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The high court didn’t comment on denying the appeals of the two men, Michael Paul Miselis and Benjamin Drake Daley, with a June 14 list of summary dispositions (pdf) simply indicating “certiori denied.”

With the move, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court conviction of Miselis and Daley, who pleaded guilty to violating the Anti-Riot Act but later challenged their conviction by arguing that the federal riot law violated the First Amendment’s free speech clause.

Daley was sentenced to 37 months in prison, while Miselis was sentenced to 27 months, with each sentence to be followed by two years of supervised release, according to a court brief filed in opposition to the men’s appeal (pdf).

Attorneys for the two men didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

Miselis and Daley took part in the Charlottesville rally as members of the Rise Above Movement (RAM), which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as an “overtly racist, violent right-wing fight club that attends rallies around the country to do open combat with counter-protesters.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes RAM as a “white supremacist group” whose members believe they are fighting against a “modern world” corrupted by various “destructive cultural influences” while embracing a “conservative counter-culture” that includes traditional Christian values.

“They see themselves as patriotic crusaders who are fighting against ‘communist’ forces and advocating on behalf of a victimized white population,” ADL said of the group.

“They were essentially serial rioters,” said Thomas Cullen, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, in remarks to the Los Angeles Times in October 2018, after Miselis and Daley were arrested. “This wasn’t in our view the lawful exercise of 1st Amendment rights. These guys came to Charlottesville to commit violent acts.”

A Supreme Court brief filed in opposition to Miselis’s and Daley’s appeal stated that the pair, along with other members of RAM, attended three separate rallies in 2017 at which they engaged in “numerous assaults against counter-protesters.”

In a release announcing Miselis’s and Daley’s convictions in 2019, the Justice Department noted their participation in the unrest in Charlottesville, saying that “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,” the DOJ noted.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'