City attorneys asks court to examine Kessler’s response to document requests

The lawyers allege the organizer of the Unite the Right rally has taken “insufficient actions” to allow discovery


Attorneys for the City of Charlottesville filed a motion in federal court on Friday to compel the judge to take action against Jason Kessler for alleged improper behavior.

Attorneys representing the City of Charlottesville filed a motion in federal court Friday evening requesting the judge fine and punish Jason Kessler — the white nationalist who organized the deadly Unite the Right rally last August and is planning an anniversary demonstration for later this summer — for allegedly failing to comply with discovery requests by the City.

The November after the Unite the Right rally last August, Kessler applied for a permit to host an “anniversary” demonstration in August 2018. The City denied Kessler’s request on public safety grounds in December 2017. In turn, Kessler sued the City in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

In standard pre-trial proceedings, both sides in a lawsuit can request information to use as evidence during the trial. In a motion, the City claims Kessler failed to object to any request made by the City, did not search for responsive documents, redacted important information and failed to preserve relevant documents. 

For instance, an excerpt from Kessler’s deposition indicates he only searched his email accounts for a few keywords, including “Unite the Right” and “UTR2,” but failed to search other important terms — like “Charlottesville.” Though the City’s attorneys requested Kessler’s communications about the August 2018 rally, Kessler testified at the deposition that he used private messaging applications which erase past communications. 

Kessler also produced then subsequently deleted several records from a Dropbox folder, according to the court documents.

In response, the City is asking for the judge to appoint a neutral forensics examiner to access all electronic records — including computers, cell  phones, email and social media accounts — which the filings claim as “the only way to ensure the timely and adequate production of responsive materials.” The attorneys are also requesting the court order Kessler to pay legal fees stemming from the failed discovery requests.

Kessler did not immediately respond for comment. Before the suit can proceed, the judge will have to answer the motion. 

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