Two Virginia residents are countersuing Christopher Cantwell, a white nationalist with Keene ties, for $1 million in response to his lawsuit alleging they filed false police reports about his use of pepper spray in Charlottesville, Va., last August.
Emily Gorcenski and Kristopher Goad accuse Cantwell of a campaign of online harassment and attempts to prevent them from testifying through intimidation — which they allege is the aim of his lawsuit.
Gorcenski and Goad are witnesses against Cantwell in the ongoing criminal case against him stemming from clashes during the weekend of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August.
Cantwell, in an email, said their counterclaim “is soaked in leftist ideological nonsense.”
The Unite the Right rally was a gathering of white nationalists with the ostensible purpose of protesting plans to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.
Violence broke out on the eve of the rally, as marchers carrying tiki torches and chanting white-nationalist slogans clashed with counter-protesters on the University of Virginia campus the night of Friday, Aug. 11. The next day, amid further brawls, a man allegedly rammed his car into a crowd, killing a counter-protester.
Cantwell, who has lived in Keene since 2012 and hosts a podcast on which he espouses racist and anti-Semitic views, garnered national media attention when he appeared in a Vice News documentary about the demonstrations.
Authorities in Virginia charged him later that month with three felony charges in connection with his use of pepper spray during the Friday night melee — two counts of illegal use of gas and one count of malicious bodily injury by means of a caustic substance.
Cantwell has said he used the spray on one person in self-defense.
In November, a judge dismissed the malicious bodily injury charge and one of the illegal use of gas charges for insufficient evidence, according to a report in the Charlottesville Daily Progress.
A grand jury in December indicted Cantwell on two charges of illegal use of gas, according to Jon Zug, court clerk for Albemarle Circuit Court.
Cantwell’s trial, scheduled to begin this week, has been postponed, according to the records. The records do not indicate the reason for the delay or the date of the next hearing.
In December, Cantwell sued Gorcenski and Goad, the complaining witnesses in the dismissed charges, in U.S. District Court in Virginia.
The lawsuit, filed by Cantwell’s attorney Elmer Woodard, claimed Gorcenski and Goad gave false statements to police to persecute his client for his political beliefs.
Woodard asked for more than $450,000 each from Gorcenski and Goad in damages, on the grounds that their “malicious prosecution” cost Cantwell in legal expenses, lost business revenue and “injury to his reputation and good name.”
Gorcenski and Goad’s answer to the complaint, filed Monday, rejects Cantwell’s assertions.
Cantwell “has suffered economic losses because he is widely known to be a virulent racist who runs a call-in program,” Gorcenski and Goad’s attorneys, Sandra C. Freeman, Pamela Starsia and Moira Meltzer-Cohen, write in the 50-page document. “... He has no reputation or good name such as would have been susceptible to injury.”
In several places, the attorneys respond pointedly to Woodard’s characterization of their clients.
Woodard, in the lawsuit, referred to Gorcenski, a transgender woman, with male pronouns and wrote that she “pretends to be a ‘transgender woman of color.’ ”
Her attorneys wrote that the phrase “is heinously insulting and violates the obligation of counsel to act with civility.”
They also objected to Woodard’s assertion that their clients adhere to “antifa,” a loose movement of far-left activists advocating direct and sometimes militant action to repel fascism.
Their clients, they write, reject “the characterization of all people who are against fascism and enforced racial segregation by an authoritarian nationalist state as ‘Antifa.’ ”
In their countersuit, Goad and Gorcenski seek damages from Cantwell on several causes, all revolving around what they claim is a “continued campaign of unlawful harassment” meant to instill fear, deter them from testifying and interfere with their rights in the legal system.
The countersuit accuses Cantwell of viciously attacking Goad and Gorcenski on his website and in other forums, causing them emotional harm and forcing them to shoulder the cost of “reasonable increased security measures.”
In one Dec. 10 blog post — filed as an exhibit with the counterclaim and still online as of Monday night — Cantwell posted pictures of Gorcenski and Goad, above song lyrics about “gassing” Jews and transgender people who “always lie, so they deserve to die.”
Cantwell opened the post with the disclaimer that the song is “about phony victimhood, perjury, and ostensibly Republican prosecutors who cooperate with lying communist agitators” and “should not be interpreted as a threat.”
In an email, Freeman said Gorcenski and Goad filed the counter-claim to “correct Cantwell’s narrative.”
“Their integrity is being impugned by the allegations in Cantwell’s complaint, at the same moment that they are being asked by the Commonwealth of Virginia to testify as witnesses in criminal proceedings against him,” she said.
Woodard declined to comment Monday on the counterclaim, referring a reporter to the court documents on file.
Separately, Cantwell has been named as a defendant in at least two civil suits stemming from the August violence in Charlottesville.
The plaintiffs in both suits — one in a Virginia state court, the other in U.S. District Court — say they suffered physical or emotional harm because of the white-nationalist demonstrations and accompanying violence on Aug. 11 and 12.
Both lawsuits list Cantwell as one of about 30 white-nationalist figures and organizations that allegedly helped organize or promote the rallies or participated in violence while there.