A 25-year-old Redondo Beach man who was a member of a white supremacist group based in Southern California pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to one count of conspiracy to riot in connection with the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virg. in August 2017, authorities said.
Thomas Walter Gillen entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville and was the second member of RAM to plead guilty to the conspiracy to riot charge.
Cole Evan White, of Clayton, Calif., pleaded guilty to the same charge in November.
Gillen faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, said Brian McGinn, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.
Gillen and White were two of four men arrested by federal authorities in October on charges they went to Virginia to join hundreds of nationalists at the “Unit the Right” rally with the intent of inciting a riot at the far-right rally in Charlottesville.
Also arrested were Michael Paul Miselis of Lawndale and Benjamin Daley of Redondo Beach. Miselis was scheduled to enter a guilty plea Friday, McGinn said, while Daley was scheduled for trial starting June 17.
An affidavit filed in support of arrest warrants for the four men included photographs and screenshots of Daley, Gillen, Miselis and White violently attacking numerous counter-protesters.
“The First Amendment protects an individual’s or organization’s right to speak, assemble, and espouse political views, but it does not license insensate acts of violence committed under the guise of First Amendment expression,” U.S. Attorney Cullen said in a statement.
The group also was present at rallies in California, including violent encounters in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, authorities said.
Gillen was a member of RAM, a combat-ready militant group that represented itself as a white supremacy movement. Members frequently posted pictures and videos of themselves training in mixed martial arts techniques along with messages and propaganda related to their alt-right, anti-Semitic and white-supremacist views, authorities said.
They promoted violence against those who they believed held opposing political views, authorities said.
Gillen traveled with other RAM members to multiple political rallies in California and Virginia between March and August 2017 where they engaged in violence.
Along with other members of RAM, Gillen attacked a group of protesters as they were leaving the area of an April 15, 2017 political rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley. Specifically, Gillen punched one protester several times and stomped on him once, authorities said. The attack was captured on video and posted to YouTube.
The four men traveled to Charlottesville to attend the “Unite the Right” rally. Gillen purchased a one-way ticket and, upon arrival in Virginia on August 11, 2017, purchased athletic tape at Wal-Mart so members could wrap their wrists to prevent injury during attacks, authorities said.
Later that night, he was part of a torch-lit march on the grounds of the University of Virginia when violence erupted among the crowd. Gillen struck multiple protesters with a torch, authorities said.
The next morning Gillen and other RAM members collectively punched, kicked, choked, head-butted and assaulted several counter-protestors.
“When the defendant conspired to commit violent acts at the Charlottesville rally, he damaged an entire community,” Special Agent David Archey of the FBI’s Richmond Division said.
The rally was organized by white-nationalist figures who claimed to be demonstrating against the removal of a public stature of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The rally drew national attention after a counter-protester, Heather Heyer was killed and several others were injured.