CONCORD, N.H (AP) — A federal jury began deliberating Friday in the case of a self-proclaimed white nationalist accused of threatening to rape the wife of a man who was part of a racist group he felt was harassing him.
Christopher Cantwell, a New Hampshire resident and radio host who became known after participating in a deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was arrested in January on federal charges of extortion, making threats and cyberstalking.
Authorities say he used the Telegram messaging app to convey a threat last year to a Missouri man that he would rape the man's wife if he didn't give up information on the leader of a white supremacist group of which the man was a member, authorities said
Cantwell also is accused of threatening to expose the man's identity if he didn't provide personal details on the leader. Authorities say he threatened to report the Missouri man, who has several children, to the state's child division for drug use and racist views. He did call the agency, but it did not feel the complaint justified further investigation.
Rather than trash talk or the constant stream of insults common on the internet, prosecutors said in closing remarks, Cantwell's threat “crossed a line” and was aimed at scaring the Missouri man into giving up personal details.
"This was a serious threat that would cause a reasonable person apprehension," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Davis told the jury.
Cantwell’s attorney, Eric Wolpin, asked the jury to find his client not guilty. He called Cantwell's language “obscene” and “over the top” but said it never rose to the level of an actual threat, nor was it tied to anything of value.
He portrayed Cantwell as angry over harassment and bullying from the racist group. Members disrupted his radio show for months with pranks and defaced his website with pornography and violent content, Wolpin said.
Everyone at the trial wore a mask because of the coronavirus pandemic. The microphone was sanitized after each person spoke, and members of the public were limited and socially distanced.
Cantwell previously pleaded guilty to assault in 2018 after he was accused of using pepper spray during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. He didn’t serve additional jail time but was barred from Virginia for five years.
Cantwell, who has hosted self-produced radio shows, also has a history of posting threatening messages over social media.
Last year, attorneys who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in connection with the Charlottesville rally asked a judge to order Cantwell to stop making “unlawful threats” against the plaintiffs and their lead attorney.