SEATTLE (AP) — Five people affiliated with white nationalist hate group Patriot Front are suing a Seattle-area man who they say infiltrated the group and disclosed their identities online, leading them to lose their jobs and face harassment.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for Western Washington, The Seattle Times reported on Tuesday. The suit accuses David Capito, 37, also known as Vyacheslav Arkhangelskiy, of using a false name in 2021 when Patriot Front accepted him as a member.
Then, Capito allegedly took photos at the group’s Pacific Northwest gatherings, recorded members’ license plates, and used hidden microphones to record conversations, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleges that around November 2021, Capito got in touch with “anarchist hackers” known for targeting far-right groups, who helped him access Patriot Front’s online chats.
Resulting leaks published online exposed the names, occupations, home addresses, and other identifying information about the group’s members, who had sought to hide their involvement.
“At a deeper level, this complaint seeks to vindicate the rule of law and basic principles of free expression for persons who espouse unpopular opinions,” the lawsuit states.
Capito did not respond by phone or email to messages from The Seattle Times. The newspaper attempted to contact him through the now-defunct Washington nonprofit organization with which he is registered. Efforts by The Associated Press to reach him were also unsuccessful.
The Patriot Front lawsuit lays out the group’s racist ideology in describing its collective objective: “reforge … our people, born to this nation of our European race … as a new collective capable of asserting our right to cultural independence.” It describes the group’s actions as “provocative” but “nonviolent.”
As a result of the members’ identities surfacing on the internet — the five plaintiffs say they were fired from their jobs, threatened at their homes, and have had their tires slashed, among other consequences, the lawsuit says.
Three of the plaintiffs have Washington state ties: Colton Brown, who lived near Maple Valley and led the state’s Patriot Front chapter; James Julius Johnson from Concrete and his wife Amelia Johnson.
Brown and James Julius Johnson were among 31 Patriot Front members arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, last year and charged with planning to riot at a Pride event. Johnson and four other men were convicted of misdemeanor conspiracy to riot and sentenced last month to several days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The two other plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit are Paul Gancarz of Virginia and Daniel Turetchi of Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified economic and punitive damages from Capito and an order barring him from using the Patriot Front members’ personal information.
Capito’s actions “would be highly offensive to any reasonable person who held unusual or unpopular opinions,” the lawsuit complaint states, contending that the group’s ideals have been “often misinterpreted or distorted by the general public and mainstream media …”
The federal complaint on behalf of the Patriot Front plaintiffs was filed by Christopher Hogue, a Spokane attorney, and Glen Allen, an attorney from Baltimore, Maryland. Hogue did not respond to a request for comment from the newspaper and Allen declined to be interviewed.
“To be candid with you, unfortunate experience has taught me to be wary of talking to journalists. My clients feel the same way,” Allen said in an email to the newspaper.