'I am talking directly to you': US attorney delivers powerful rebuke to white nationalists

Authorities unsealed new charges against a white nationalist in Ohio Thursday.

August 29, 2019, 5:02 PM

The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio on Thursday announced new federal charges against a self-avowed white nationalist accused of threatening to commit an attack on a local Jewish community center.

James Reardon, who attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was arrested last week after authorities said he posted the threat on Instagram.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said Reardon has now been charged with one count of making threats as authorities continue their investigation into Reardon and whether he my have any accomplices.

PHOTO: U.S. attorney Justin Herdman
U.S. attorney Justin Herdman
Department of Justice

But as the Trump administration continues to face criticism over its response to the rising threat of violent white nationalism, Herdman used the occasion to turn his attention to address white supremacists directly.

"I am talking directly to you," Herdman said at a news conference announcing the charges. "The Constitution protects your right to speak, your right to think, and your right to believe. If you want to waste the blessings of liberty by going down a path of hatred and failed ideologies, that is your choice."

Herdman continued, evoking the sacrifices made by U.S. service members in World War II against Nazism, as well as those who marched for civil rights throughout U.S. history.

"Thousands and thousands of young Americans already voted with their lives to ensure that this same message of intolerance, death, and destruction would not prevail - you can count their ballots by visiting any American cemetery in North Africa, Italy, France, or Belgium and tallying the white headstones," Herdman said. "You can also recite the many names of civil rights advocates who bled and died in opposing supporters of those same ideologies of hatred. Their voices may be distant, but they can still be heard."

"The Constitution may give you a voice, but it doesn’t guarantee you a receptive audience," Herdman added.

Herdman also made reference to other threats made against the Jewish community as well as the mass shooting in El Paso earlier this month, where 21 people were killed by an alleged shooter who had expressed his hope to target Mexicans.

"Threatening to kill Jewish people, gunning down innocent Latinos on a weekend shopping trip, planning and plotting to perpetrate murders in the name of a nonsense racial theory, sitting to pray with God-fearing people who you execute moments later - those actions don’t make you soldiers, they make you criminals," Herdman said. " Law enforcement doesn’t go to war with cowards who break the law, we arrest them and send them to prison."

After highlighting what he said are the strengths of diverse communities, Herdman again turned his attention back to addressing white supremacists directly with a stark warning for those who may turn to violence.

"When you wake up tomorrow morning, no matter what time, I want you to remember something," Herdman said. "You can’t set your alarm clock early enough to beat us out of bed. The men and women of law enforcement don’t wake up. We never went to sleep."

"We are always awake," he added. "And arm in arm with the public, when your hatred leads you to break the law, we will do everything we can to be there to stop you."

Reardon does not currently have a listed attorney for his federal case, but he previously pleaded not guilty to state charges against him.

You can read Herdman's full remarks here.