Last two RAM members plead to conspiracy to riot charges

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The final two members of a California-based white supremacist group who were facing charges in Charlottesville have now entered guilty pleas.

An image released by the FBI showing members of the Rise Above Movement attending the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, including Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis, Thomas Gillen and Cole White.

According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia, 26-year-old Benjamin Drake Daley and 30-year-old Michael Paul Miselis pleaded Friday to one count each of conspiracy to riot in connection with the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and other alleged political rallies in California.

They are members of the white supremacist group known as the Rise Above Movement, or RAM. Daley is one of the founders of the group and was chiefly responsible for organizing the presence of some of its members in Virginia in 2017.

"These avowed white supremacists traveled to Charlottesville to incite and commit acts of violence, not to engage in peaceful First Amendment expression," said U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen. "Although the First Amendment protects an organization's right to express abhorrent political views, it does not authorize senseless violence in furtherance of a political agenda."

"As RAM members, Daley and Miselis trained to engage in violent confrontation and attended the Unite the Right rally with the expectation of provoking physical conflict with counter-protesters that would lead to riots," said FBI Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey. "The FBI will continue to work with the Virginia State Police and the United States Attorney's Office (WDVA) to investigate and prosecute these violations. We are grateful to the Charlottesville community and the Commonwealth of Virginia for their cooperation during these investigations."

Documents filed in court during Friday's hearing showed both men were members of RAM, which is a now-defunct combat-ready, militant group that represented itself as part of the new nationalist and white supremacy movement.

Between March and August 2017, members of the group traveled to multiple political rallies and organized demonstrations in Virginia and California where they engaged in acts of violence.

Members of the group would routinely conduct hand-to-hand and other forms of combat training to prepare for such confrontations at political rallies.

The release says they would attend such purported rallies specifically with the intention of provoking physical conflict with counter-protesters, which they believed would justify their use of force against the counter-protesters and would shield them from prosecution for their acts of violence.

For example, group members attended a March 25, 2017 rally in Huntington Beach, California where they were recorded assaulting protesters. Images and videos of this were later used online to recruit members to engage in violent confrontations at other events.

RAM members also participated in the Aug. 11, 2017 torch-lit rally on the Grounds of the University of Virginia that ended with a violent confrontation with students and others near the Rotunda. They used their torches to strike several people.

Then on Aug. 12, they were among 40 people who tried to enter what was then called Emancipation Park by way of an entrance on Second Street, but they were told by police to use a different entrance.

That group then began making its way through another group of more than 20 people who had gathered to protest against discrimination. At that time, RAM members pushed, punched, kicked, choked, head-butted and otherwise assaulted several people, which resulted in a riot.

As part of their plea deal, both Daley and Miselis admitted their actions during these two events were not in self-defense.

Two other men, Cole White and Thomas Gillen, have already pleaded to conspiracy to riot charges in connection with this case.

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