The leader of a neo-Nazi group is “broke” and unable to comply with court sanctions in a lawsuit stemming from the Unite the Right rally, according to a new court filing.
Dillon U. Hopper, leader of the mostly defunct Vanguard America, said Monday in a letter to the Western District Federal Court that he has not complied with court ordered discovery because of his finances and an inter-group “coup” during the summer of 2017.
“To put it simply, I’m flat broke, penniless, destitute and poverty stricken,” Hopper wrote in a letter to U.S. Magistrate Joel Hoppe.
Vanguard America is one of the dozens of defendants in the federal Sines v. Kessler lawsuit filed by Charlottesville-area residents against organizers of the violent Aug. 12, 2017 white supremacist Unite the Right rally, which ended with the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.
Members of Vanguard America were photographed alongside James Alex Fields Jr., who was convicted of first degree murder in Heyer’s death, at the rally.
Earlier this month, Hoppe allowed some financial sanctions against defendants who had not complied with discovery requests in an effort to force their participation.
Hopper, who has not complied, said he is unable to pay for an attorney or any sanctions due to recent medical bills stemming from his son’s premature birth.
“I’ve had to sell belongings that I’ve kept since l can remember just to scrape enough together to pay my water bill or electric bill,” he wrote. “As of late, I’ve had to part ways with my 1978 International LoBoy tractor that I used to mow my yard and my Nintendo Gameboy kit which I rediscovered while cleaning out my mother’s estate when she passed away unexpectedly in March of 2017.”
Additionally, Hopper claims that he was not involved in the organizing of the Unite the Right rally due to an internal coup and was locked out of the group’s website and Discord servers leading up to the rally. Because he was locked out of the servers and logs he said he cannot provide the discovery requests.
Though he was not involved with Vanguard at the time of the rally, Hopper wrote that he could provide the court with the names of those who were.
“I do know the names, addresses and phone numbers of those individuals who did represent Vanguard at the time, who did command Vanguard at Unite the Right and who did personally hand the shield to and place James Alex Fields in front of the cameras and if it does please the court I can relinquish that information to you immediately,” he wrote. “I do feel shame that a life had to be lost that day and I do feel shame that many people were injured and traumatized by those events,” he wrote.
According to Hopper’s letter, the people who ousted him from Vanguard America during the summer of 2017 later splintered off to form Patriot Front, another neo-Nazi group. Hopper said he has informed the leaders of that group they will need to comply with the lawsuit and has not gotten a response.
Though Hopper does not name who he believes should be added to the lawsuit in his stead, the group is led by Thomas Ryan Rousseau, who was photographed at the rally alongside Fields.
Though Vanguard America is mostly defunct, Hopper offered to dissolve the group.
“I don’t know if the Vanguard America LLC is even still valid in the state of Texas, your honor, but I can see what I can do to have it disbanded and defunct,” he wrote. “As I stated before, I am not a lawyer, I do not know how to proceed, I do not know how to write or format legal documentation and I basically have no idea what I’m doing.”
The court will hold on-the-record hearings via phone this summer with the plaintiff’s lawyers, Hopper and fellow defendants Elliot Kline and Matthew Heimbach and lawyers for Vanguard America to determine what each defendant’s obligations for discover are and set a schedule for them to be met.