Supreme Court turns away white supremacists' challenge against federal anti-riot law

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a legal challenge to a federal anti-rioting law brought by a pair of white supremacists who were indicted for their roles in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.

The high court turned the case away on Monday after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of the two California men while ruling that parts of the 1968 Anti-Riot Act were unconstitutional. 

Benjamin Daley and Michael Miselis were members of a white supremacist group called the Rise Above Movement who traveled from California to Charlottesville for the August 2017 rally that devolved into violent clashes between the right-wing demonstrators and counterprotesters.


One of the right-wing participants in the rally was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murdering Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old counterdemonstrator, by driving his car into a crowd of people during the event.

Daley and Miselis pleaded guilty to violating the federal anti-rioting law in plea agreements that allowed them to bring constitutional challenges against the statute. 

The 4th Circuit, which is based in Richmond, Va., ruled that parts of the law were overly broad but that the two men's guilty pleas rested on permissible provisions in the act.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals echoed that ruling earlier this year in another set of prosecutions against members of the Rise Above Movement. A three-judge panel on the California-based appeals court found that the law banned "protected speech tending to 'organize,' 'promote' or 'encourage' a riot and by expanding that prohibition to 'urging' a riot and to mere advocacy, the Act criminalizes a substantial amount of protected speech."