A white supremacist who filed a lawsuit against a woman who cussed him out has been awarded $5, the Richmond Times-Dispatch is reporting.
Jason Kessler, who organized the Unite the Right rally last summer in Charlottesville, found himself on the receiving end of a profanity-laden rant about six months later. It happened at the assault trial of DeAndre Harris, an African-American man who was assaulted at the deadly Charlottesville rally. Though the victim of an assault, Harris had been charged with assault — charges of which he was acquitted.
At the trial, a woman named Donna Gasapo found Kessler and gave her a piece of her mind.
“F**k you… f**k you… a*****e crybaby Kessler”
Gasapo also called Kessler a “murderer,” referring to the fact that a woman, Heather Heyer, was killed at the Unite the Right rally when an alt-right protester drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
“Someone in our community was murdered. White supremacists stormed into our city. It doesn’t sit well with me.”
Kessler sued Gasapo for $500, alleging that her words violated West Virginia’s anti-dueling statute with her actions that day. He also alleged that her words were an incitement to violence.
“There was a chance that I could respond violently and I don’t want that to happen.”
As for the relatively small amount he petitioned for, he said that his suit was more about the principle of the thing, and a desire to keep things civil.
“This is an opportunity to bring civility back to our community.”
Gasapo’s attorney, Pam Starsia, pointed out that Kessler wasn’t actually wronged in any tangible way by her client’s words. Furthermore, she argued, because Kessler is a public figure, there’s a higher standard required to assign malice to someone’s speech.
Judge Robert H. Downer Jr., however, agreed with Kessler that Gasapo had violated the law that day. However, he also deemed that Kessler’s damages were worth about a hundredth of what he claimed. Rather than awarding him the full $500 for which he’d sued, Downer instead ordered Kessler be paid $5.
Starsia disagrees with the ruling and has said that an appeal isn’t necessarily off the table at this time. However, she also notes that the judge’s awarding of a paltry amount in damages makes a profound statement.
“I think we should all be very concerned about what this ruling means in terms of opening up other frivolous harassment suits against members of our community who are expressing their opinions and their very real feelings of frustration, which we believe are protected by the First Amendment.”