A trio of violent white supremacists belonging to the Rise Above Movement (RAM) learned their prison fates on Friday in a U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Virginia. Ben Daley, Thomas Gillen and Michael Miselis previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to riot following the group’s violent antics at the “Unite the Right” rally as well as at other California rallies, including a #MAGA march in Huntington Beach that turned into a melee two years ago.
Federal agents arrested the men during early morning raids in October. The affidavit in the case deemed the trio “among the most violent individuals present in Charlottesville.”
Daley, a 26-year-old noted as a leader of the group, got handed down a 37-month prison sentence followed by Gillen’s own 33-month penalty. Miselis, a doctoral student at UCLA who lost his defense contractor job with Northrup Grumman after being exposed as a RAM member, received the lightest sentence at 27 months.
All three defendants faced a five-year maximum penalty for their violent actions that they admitted weren’t committed in self-defense.
“These defendants, motivated by hateful ideology, incited and committed acts of violence in Charlottesville as well [as] at other purported political rallies in California,” says Thomas T. Cullen, a U.S. Attorney, in a press release. “They were not interested in peaceful protest or lawful First Amendment expression; instead, they intended to provoke and engage in street battles with those that they perceived as their enemies.”
One of those rallies happened in Huntington Beach on March 25, 2017. Known as the DIY Division at the time, RAM members attended the pro-Trump rally in making their public debut. When violence broke out towards the march’s end, Tyler Laube took the opportunity to punch former Weekly reporter Frank John Tristan. Shortly after, RAM leader Robert Rundo punched an antifa protester in the back of the head and pounded him with more punches on the ground.
Huntington Beach is also where RAM gained a new recruit in Miselis. Court documents show that his parents described their son as “socially inept” until his life took a turn after meeting RAM members. The group held mixed-martial arts training at Marblehead Park in San Clemente before heading up north together for the so-called “Battle of Berkeley” on April 15, 2017 where more violent confrontations with protesters occurred. A few months later, a trio of RAM members headed to Charlotesville for the biggest gathering of white supremacists in decades.
That’s where Daley assaulted protesters the night before the rally during an infamous tiki torch march through the University of Virginia. At “Unite the Right,” RAM members and an associate tried to enter Emancipation Park, where an embattled Robert E. Lee statue stood, through a street when they were told to enter elsewhere by law enforcement. Trying to force their way through a group a protesters, the trio assaulted several of them with punches, kicks and headbutts.
Court documents also showed that Daley bragged about Charlottesville to a potential recruit when he returned to Southern California. The two men sat at a local restaurant’s bar on August 22, 2017 when a bartender began listening to and documenting their conversation. Daley said that he helped start the group that trained in Orange County and Carson. He claimed RAM traveled to Charlottesville to “wreak havoc” and showed the other man a picture of him hitting someone.
“We’re going after feminists, now,” Daley mentioned towards the end of the conversation.
Despite the guilty pleas and convictions in Virginia, a separate California case involving other RAM members who didn’t travel to Charlottesville ended much differently. Last month, District Judge Cormac J. Carney dismissed the charges against Rundo, Aaron Eason and Robert Bowman. Laube withdrew his guilty plea and had his case dismissed, as well. Carney’s decision claimed that the federal statute used to prosecute the men infringed upon their First Amendment rights. The government disagreed and appealed the ruling.
In the meantime, the Department of Justice believes the Virginia convictions have dealt the Rise Above Movement a fatal blow, describing the violent neo-Nazi gang as “now-defunct.”
But over the weekend, RAM’s account on Gab–a social media swamp for white supremacists–decried the sentencing of the three members. “They can lock us up,” a post reads, showing a flexing Miselis. “They can lie about us but they can’t stop [an] idea whos [sic] time has come.”