Christopher Cantwell, a violent neo-Nazi whose civil trial begins later this month for his role in organizing the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., has been receiving help to prepare his defense from Matt Hale, a fellow white supremacist housed in the communications management unit at USP Marion, a medium security US penitentiary.
Hale is the one-time leader of the World Church of the Creator, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "for a time one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in America." Largely composed of racist skinheads, the organization promoted a "theology" largely based around a belief about the supposed superiority of the white race. Since the early 1990s, followers committed to "racial holy war" have been convicted for murder, firebombing a NAACP office in Washington state, and plotting to bomb a Black church in Los Angeles. Hale is currently serving a 40-year sentence for soliciting the murder of a federal judge during the trial of Ben Smith, a follower who carried out a killing spree.
Cantwell is currently serving time in prison for threatening to rape another white supremacist's wife to pressure him into revealing the identity of the leader of the so-called "Bowl Patrol," "a competing neo-Nazi group formed to glorify Charleston mass shooter Dylann Roof."
While serving his sentence, Cantwell met Hale along with another man named William A. White, who has played an even more significant role in helping him prepare for his upcoming trial in Charlottesville. White, in turn, is in prison for soliciting violence against the foreman of the federal jury that convicted Hale. According to the US Justice Department, White created the now defunct Overthrow.com website in the late 2000s as a platform for the American National Socialist Workers Party. He used the website to post derogatory comments and personal information about the jury foreman, including their home address and phone numbers.
"Anyway, so I run into these guys," Cantwell told a white supremacist podcaster during an interview last week from an Oklahoma prison where he is awaiting transfer to Charlottesville to stand trial. "And allegations against them notwithstanding, they're good to me."
Cantwell described Hale and White as "a couple of really smart guys" during his podcast interview. The Unite the Right organizer added that Hale "actually made an attorney out of himself before he got arrested." (Hale passed the bar exam, but was deemed unfit for practice by the Illinois State Bar Association due to his white supremacist activism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.)
"And Bill White, I don't think he's ever become a member of the bar, but has made good use of his time reading the law library," Cantwell said on the recent podcast. "Mr. White has been very helpful to me in filing motions with the court."
Cantwell, who is representing himself in the Charlottesville trial, has filed a slew of motions that has tied up time and resources for the plaintiffs counsel. In a motion filed with the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia on Oct. 9, lead attorney Robert Kaplan asked a judge to strike Cantwell's previous motions from the record and forbid him from using White, Hale or anyone else as a ghostwriter for future filings.
The plaintiffs have argued that "the practice of ghostwriting in connection with pro se litigants raises serious procedural, ethical and practical concerns." Citing a 1997 ruling in the Eastern District of Virginia, the plaintiffs said ghostwriting amounts to the "unauthorized practice of law" and exploits "the leniency and privileges afforded to pro se litigants, who are held to less stringent standards" than defendants represented by counsel.
Cantwell admitted during the podcast that he's dependent on White for help drafting the motions.
"Could I do this without him?" he said. "No."