Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was ordered by a federal magistrate Thursday to turn over data related to last summer’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ruling from New Orleans federal court, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson directed Mr. Duke, 67, to comply with most of the requests contained in a subpoena issued as part of a lawsuit initiated by several Charlottesville residents against more than a dozen individuals involved in the infamous Aug. 12 rally.
“Although Duke is not a named defendant,” the magistrate wrote, “… he is specifically identified in plaintiffs’ first amended complaint as a co-conspirator with the named defendants who allegedly participated himself in the coordination, planning, fund-raising for and execution of defendants’ activities in Charlottesville that are the basis of the lawsuit.”
Plaintiffs led by the Integrity First for America nonprofit group sued several “Unite the Right” participants in Charlottesville federal court after the rally resulted in chaos that culminated in violated clashes and the deaths of two police officers and a counterprotester, alleging “severe physical and emotional injuries resulting from Defendants’ planned and executed violence, harassment and intimidation.”
Mr. Duke was not sued personally over his participation, but plaintiffs claim his communications are pertinent to their suit and obtained a subpoena seeking certain electronically stored information. He subsequently filed a motion to quash in New Orleans federal court, but ultimately had the bulk of his objections overruled with Thursday’s order.
The magistrate’s order directed Mr. Duke to turn over documents by June 18 including records and communications related to the litigation and “Unite the Right” rally, including any conversations he conducted through email or social media with other participants in the weeks preceding their protest. He ruled partially for Mr. Duke, however, and dismissed three of the 14 document requests contained in the plaintiffs’ subpoena as broadly worded.
Mr. Duke did not immediately return an email seeking comment. His attorney previously called the document request “overbroad” and “unduly burdensome.”
“While some burden may be imposed upon movant in responding to these requests, I cannot conclude that his burden or expense is outweighed by the likely benefit to the truth-finding objective of requiring production,” the magistrate ruled. “The discovery these requests seek is important to resolving plaintiffs’ claims of conspiracy, coordination, planning and funding – all of which are significant to the intent element of several of the causes of action.”
Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, previously said the requested documents “are essential to discovering the full extent of the conspiracy to plan and commit violence in Charlottesville.”
A former grand wizard of the KKK, Mr. Duke successfully ran as a Republican in 1989 for the Louisiana House of Representatives, holding that seat until 1992. He unsuccessfully ran for governor of Louisiana in 1991 and for U.S. Senate in 2016. He currently hosts a white nationalist radio program.