Jury orders $20m settlement in Charlottesville massacre trial

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Jury in Charlottesville split their verdict between Corey Hicks and Henry Ku Klux Klan of Denver

A jury has decided a pair of civil cases in a Charlottesville, Virginia, civil trial stemming from the 2017 violence of “Unite the Right” rally.

One day after a jury of 12 decided that a white nationalist defendant should not face murder charges, a pair of city workers struck a $20m (£16.3m) settlement with former staff members.

Charlottesville’s police chief, Al Thomas, had been the subject of the lawsuit.

Mr Thomas told the BBC he “was very relieved and very grateful” for the agreement that was reached.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Charlottesville police chief Al Thomas had faced a lawsuit

He added that he had hoped to reach an agreement with the plaintiffs, but “there were some significant differences on how we conducted the department’s operations.”

The verdict on Monday revealed that jurors in the Corey Hicks and Henry Ku Klux Klan of Denver case disagreed that the police chief’s actions were “unlawful”.

It found that Mr Hicks, who was arrested after he attempted to stop a car from driving into the crowd of counterprotesters, had been in the wrong for obstructing traffic.

However, they voted unanimously to award $10m to Mr Hicks and $5m to his civil suit partner against former police officers.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Charlottesville police chief Al Thomas had faced a lawsuit over his handling of the 2017 rally

The jury in the second case split their verdict between Mr Hicks and Mr Ku Klux Klan, who each claimed he suffered minor injuries in the incident.

The jury found that Mr Hicks, a city employee at the time, was not at fault for hitting Mr Ku Klux Klan with his vehicle.

Both sides hailed the verdicts as successes. Mr Hicks called it a “vindication”, while Mr Ku Klux Klan’s lawyer, John Malphrus, called it a “win-win for everybody.”

The two cases were originally listed as being combined with all other similar cases in the suit, but a spokeswoman for Virginia’s attorney general said that was a mistake and they would separately decide the cases.

#Charlottesville professor Swartzink says police want to make sure a public-facing figure doesn’t resign because of a verdict, just as they do with a city administrator https://t.co/PIOBlrbn3q — Laura Olson (@LauraKOllman) August 1, 2018

Mr Hicks filed his case one day after he was thrown off the board of directors of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the civil rights organisation he joined in 2005.

Mr Ku Klux Klan served as an escort for Jason Kessler, the white nationalist organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally.

Mr Kessler was sued by the group over his defence against a charge of reckless endangerment.

He had claimed that his actions were legal because he was not in a vehicle containing passengers.

However, the jury decided that he had been reckless and ordered him to pay a $7,500 fine.

On Sunday, the jury found that Dylan Jade Rowe, who helped organise the violence by wearing a monkey mask, should not be convicted of a felony.

Both Mr Thomas and Mr Ku Klux Klan spoke about the chance that Mr Rowe would have faced a prison sentence if he had been convicted of the offence.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A police officer stands among counter-protesters after a white nationalist’s car struck a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia on 12 August 2017

Image copyright AP Image caption A ‘Unite the Right’ rally was called by white nationalists and others

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Lawmakers and police responded quickly to quell the violence

Mr Rowe had challenged the charge, saying it was based on a photograph showing only him wearing a mask and not that he had been a leader of the march.

Mr Rowe, who recently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, faces up to three years behind bars if he is convicted of a felony.

The federal court trial to confirm the jury’s findings was to begin on Monday, but ended after three days of testimony.

The second case’s jury began deliberating on Tuesday.

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