By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press
Cole Evan White joined torch-carrying white supremacists on a march through the University of Virginia’s campus and attacked anti-racism protesters the next day. Within a matter of days, he enrolled at a university in California.
White, 26, continued his studies at San Francisco State University after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to riot on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. He was jailed for more than seven months between his October 2018 arrest and his release on $10,000 bond in May 2019.
Now he’s facing a possible prison term. A federal judge is scheduled to sentence White on Friday for his role in the violence that reverberated far from the Virginia college town.
San Francisco State University spokesman Kent Bravo said the admissions process for it and other schools in the California State University system does not ask applicants about their criminal background. The university learned of White’s arrest and guilty plea when an Associated Press reporter inquired about his status this week, according to Bravo.
Bravo said White is currently a part-time student who first enrolled in the fall 2017 semester, which started less than a month after White joined members of a now-defunct white supremacist group called the Rise Above Movement in attacking counterprotesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
“San Francisco State University unequivocally condemns white supremacy,” Bravo said in a statement Monday. “We send our compassion and concern to those affected by the events of that tragic weekend, specifically the victims and families of those who were targeted by individuals motivated by hate.”
White is one of four Rise Above Movement members or associates who pleaded guilty to charges that they punched, kicked, choked and head-butted counterprotesters at the August 2017 rally. White’s three co-defendants already have been sentenced to between two and three years in prison.
The violence in Charlottesville culminated with an avowed neo-Nazi, James Fields, deliberately plowing his car into a crowd, killing counterprotester Heather Heyer.
White acknowledged that he also joined members of the now-defunct Rise Above Movement at an April 2017 political rally on the streets of downtown Berkeley, California, where he punched protesters in the head.
White pleaded guilty in November 2018 to a riot conspiracy charge punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. He has asked U.S. District Judge Norman Moon to spare him from any more time behind bars.
San Francisco State had an enrollment of 28,880 students for the fall 2019 semester. White, a California native, has a 3.3 grade point average at San Francisco State and made the school’s Dean’s List for the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters, according to defense attorney Michael Hemenway.
White also has worked for his father’s sprinkler repair company in Clayton, California, since his release from custody. White’s attorney said the San Francisco area resident has fully complied with terms of his release, including home electronic monitoring, while waiting to be sentenced.
White’s lawyer cited the risk of COVID-19 infection in prisons as a reason to spare him from incarceration and sentence him to time served, home detention or a combination of both.
“Cole absolutely understands the consequences of his actions and he will certainly be deterred from committing any crimes in the future,” the defense lawyer wrote.
Last week, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider an appeal by two of White’s co-defendants. A three-judge panel rejected the two men’s arguments that the Anti-Riot Act, the law to which they pleaded guilty to violating, is unconstitutionally vague under the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
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