Oakdale

‘I’m broke’: White nationalist Damigo tries to escape results of Charlottesville

Modesto-area white supremacist caught on video punching woman at Berkeley rally

Nathan Damigo, the leader of an alt-right group attending California State University, Stanislaus, was caught on video Saturday punching a woman in the face at a protest in Berkeley. (Clip from We Are Change)
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Nathan Damigo, the leader of an alt-right group attending California State University, Stanislaus, was caught on video Saturday punching a woman in the face at a protest in Berkeley. (Clip from We Are Change)

Oakdale’s Nathan Damigo has filed for bankruptcy in an apparent attempt to dodge lawsuits facing him and other white nationalists involved in the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Damigo and two dozen extremist leaders or their groups conspired to commit violence in August 2017, say the lawsuits, both filed in Virginia. One is in state court; the other, filed in federal court, is scheduled for trial in July.

Last week, Damigo filed a Chapter 7 petition in US Bankruptcy Court in Modesto. The same day, Jan. 2, his attorney filed a notice with the federal court in Virginia declaring an “automatic stay,” or halt in the lawsuit against Damigo because of the bankruptcy.

Damigo did not return a message left with his cell phone Friday, and his Ohio attorney, James Kolenich, hung up when asked about Damigo.

Damigo’s Modesto bankruptcy

In his bankruptcy petition, Damigo cites his involvement in “two lawsuits” in a section outlining money owed that is neither business-related nor consumer debt.

Damigo owes unspecified and disputed amounts, the petition says, to plaintiffs in the federal case, including Heather Heyer and her survivors. She was killed in Charlottesville when a Dodge Charger plowed into a group of people protesting the white nationalist rally. The driver, James Alex Fields Jr., in December was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years.

Co-debtors listed in Damigo’s bankruptcy are defendants in the federal lawsuit, including Identity Evropa, the group Damigo founded in March 2016 using his family’s address east of Oakdale. Others include Fields, recognized white supremacists Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler and groups such as the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights and National Socialist Movement.

“Defendants and their co-conspirators promised that there would be violence in Charlottesville, and violence there was,” the lawsuit reads, describing neo-Nazis and white separatists armed with semi-automatic weapons, shields and torches marching and chanting “blood and soil,” a Nazi slogan, and “you will not replace us.” Damigo’s group “adopted and popularized” the latter, the lawsuit says.

“Damigo and his group Identity Evropa took a lead role in organizing white supremacist participation among people from outside Charlottesville to engage in unlawful acts of violence,” the lawsuit says.

This is a huge victory for us,” Damigo wrote in a Tweet after his rally arrest and release. “We are going to get national attention.”

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President Donald Trump sparked public outcry when he blamed all involved for the violence and said there were “some very fine people on both sides.” Damigo and two others eventually were convicted of failing to disperse, and others were charged with more serious crimes.

‘Battle of Berkeley’ video goes viral

Years earlier, after two tours in Iraq with the Marines, Damigo served a prison term for robbing a Middle Eastern cab driver in California, a crime he blamed on post-traumatic stress disorder in an HBO television show. After his release, Damigo became involved in white nationalism, and a video of Damigo flooring a young woman with a blow to the face during a clash in Berkeley in April 2017 went viral.

Having founded Identity Evropa, Damigo posted a series of 20 self-filmed videos featuring race-based rants and attacking feminism. “The idea that discrimination is always morally wrong is completely absurd,” he said in one. “Anyone saying this is saying, `Hey, don’t use your brain; be an idiot.’ ”

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Damigo stepped away from leading Identity Evropa shortly after the deadly rally. He obtained a sociology degree in May from California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock, whose City Council joined Oakdale’s in passing anti-hate resolutions.

In his bankruptcy, Damigo lists monthly income of $1,784 from a veteran’s disability benefit, and monthly expenses of $1,140. He owns no real estate, and his assets include engagement and wedding rings; a 2006 BMW 325i in need of repair valued at $2,532; a cell phone, laptop computer and other electronics valued at $1,713; woodworking and construction equipment worth $1,764; and a golden retriever valued in one section at $500, and in another at $250.

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Garth Stapley is The Modesto Bee’s Opinions page editor. Before this assignment, he worked 25 years as a Bee reporter, covering local government agencies and the high-profile murder case of Scott and Laci Peterson.

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