Jury finds white nationalist guilty of rape threat
CONCORD, N.H — A federal jury on Monday found a self-proclaimed white nationalist who rose to prominence during a deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, guilty of threatening to rape the wife of a man who was part of a racist group he felt was harassing and bullying him.
Christopher Cantwell, a New Hampshire resident and radio host, was arrested in January on federal charges of extortion, making threats and cyberstalking. He had pleaded not guilty.
The jury found Cantwell guilty of extortion and threatening to injure property or reputation, but not guilty of cyberstalking. He faces up to 22 years in prison.
He did not show any visible reaction to the verdict.
Authorities say Cantwell used the Telegram messaging app to convey a threat last year to a Missouri man, saying that he would rape the man's wife if he didn't give up information about the leader of a white supremacist group of which the man was a member, authorities said.
Cantwell is also accused of threatening to expose the man's identity if he didn't provide the personal details about the leader of the Bowl Patrol. The group's name was inspired by the haircut of Dylann Roof, who was sentenced to death for fatally shooting nine Black church members during a Bible study session in Charleston, South Carolina.
Authorities say Cantwell followed through on a threat to report the Missouri man, who has several children, to the state's child division for drug use and racist views. He did call the agency. But an agency official testified at the trial that it did not feel the complaint justified further investigation.
Rather than the constant stream of insults common on the internet, prosecutors said in closing remarks that Cantwell's threat "crossed a line" and was aimed at scaring the Missouri man into giving up personal details.
"This was a serious threat that would cause a reasonable person apprehension," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Davis told the jury in closing arguments Friday.
Cantwell's attorney, Eric Wolpin, asked the jury Friday to find his client not guilty. He called Cantwell's language "obscene" and "over the top" but said it never rose to the level of an actual threat, nor was it tied to anything of value.
He portrayed Cantwell as angry over harassment and bullying from the Bowl Patrol. Members disrupted his radio show for months with pranks and defaced his website with pornography and violent content, Wolpin said.
Everyone at the trial wore a mask because of the coronavirus pandemic. The microphone was sanitized after each person spoke, and members of the public were limited in the courtroom and socially distanced.
Cantwell previously pleaded guilty to assault in 2018 after he was accused of using pepper spray during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. He didn't serve additional jail time but was barred from Virginia for five years.
Cantwell also has a history of posting threatening messages over social media.
Last year, attorneys who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in connection with the Charlottesville rally asked a judge to order Cantwell to stop making "unlawful threats" against the plaintiffs and their lead attorney.