By Emily Higginbotham
After a two-week trial and a day and a half of deliberations, a 12-member jury in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Monday found two members of the far-right Proud Boys guilty of attempted assault charges connected to a street brawl with leftist protesters that took place last October on the Upper East Side.
Maxwell Hare, who prosecutors said instigated the street fight, and John Kinsman were convicted on charges of attempted gang assault, attempted assault and riot for their part in beating up the four people who police described as anti-fascists belonging to a left wing group known as Antifa.
The jury rejected that the pair were acting in self-defense when they punched, kicked and stomped the supposed Antifa members following the group’s meeting on Oct. 12 at the Metropolitan Republican Club on East 83rd Street, where the founder of the Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes, had made an appearance.
Hare, 27, was found guilty on all three counts of attempted assault. His co-defendant, Kinsman, 39, was found guilty on two counts of attempted assault and “justified” in his actions on the lowest counts of attempted assault.
The verdict came after a separate and much larger clash between the two groups in Portland, Oregon over the weekend. The groups have become common foes, engaging in violence in cities across the country over the last few years.
No Testimony from the Victims
The trial was peculiar in that it relied heavily on video footage that captured the minute-long melee and featured no testimony from the victims. On the night of the fight, the Antifa members, who were referred to in the indictment and during the trial by their physical attributes and named respectively as Khaki, Ponytail, Spike Belt and Shaved Head, refused to speak to an officer who was at the scene. Later, investigators were unable to identify or locate the victims. Consequently, the district attorney’s office was not able to charge the Proud Boys with assault, as that charge requires evidence of injury.
The prosecutors said that if the four Antifa members had been identified, they too would have faced charges for their part in the brawl.
The defense took advantage of the Antifa members’ absence and made characterizing them as a group out to terrorize Proud Boys a central part of their cases. The defense lawyers called them “maniacs” and “monsters.” Hare testified to watching “hundreds” of YouTube videos in which Antifa members wield bricks, crowbars and bottles of urine to hurl at anyone they deem to be Nazis or fascists.
Kinsman’s attorney, Jack Goldberg, who was animated throughout the trial and often shouted during his questioning and summation, suggested that the prosecutors were not only politically motivated, but also that the NYPD, the district attorney and Antifa were colluding with one another since no charges were filed against the four involved in the fight.
“These people are not from the New York County district attorney’s office,” Goldberg said during his summation. “They’re from the New York County district Antifa’s office.”
Looking for a Fight
Likewise, the prosecutors frequently invoked the founder of the Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes, who was not charged in the incident. They called McInnes a “hatemonger” and read a statement in which he promoted violence, saying, “We don’t start fights. We finish them.”
Joshua Steinglass, the prosecutor, said the Proud Boys were looking for a fight on the night of October 12. He showed video footage of what he characterized as Proud Boys taunting the many protesters who had gathered across the street from the Met Club that night. The protesters were chanting “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA." Steinglass paused the video on a frame of Kinsman with his arm rigid and outstretched and hand flat pointing forward. He asked Kinsman what he was doing in the video.
“I was waving,” Kinsman said.
“So that’s not you giving the Nazi salute?” Steinglass asked. Kinsman denied the claim.
The prosecution also noted that Hare had been involved in other altercations with Antifa, including months earlier in Portland. He also described a photograph of Hare posing with an AR-15 and a defaced Antifa flag that had been posted to Facebook.
“They romanticize violence,” Steinglass said of the Proud Boys. “Their attack was vicious, disproportionate and most important, unnecessary.”
Footage on Park Avenue
The defense, however, painted the Proud Boys, who have been flagged as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, as an anti-racist group that was founded on the ideals of nationalism and conservatism. Kinsman said he joined because he was looking for drinking buddies.
Hare testified that he was afraid of the protesters outside the club that night, and that his fear began when he learned that on the previous night, hooded figures vandalized the club, by shattering windows and spray painting anarchist symbols on the doors. The vandals also left behind leaflets, which contained a so-called manifesto that denounced McInness and promised future attacks.
The footage shows the group of at least 10 Proud Boys walking along Park Avenue when Hare stops, claps his hands, and shouts, “Proud Boys, you ready?” He then runs toward four masked people wearing all black clothing on East 82nd Street. One throws a plastic water bottle at Hare, but it misses him and flies past his head. Hare then swings and punches Ponytail and also punches and kicks Shaved Head. Kinsman comes into the frame a few seconds later when he launches himself into Spike Belt, who he kicks and stomps until he turns his attention to Shaved Head, who he also kicked.
Hare testified that he had no choice but to confront the “row” of Antifa he spotted coming toward his group and that he his group was already under attack when he started swinging.
Kinsman said that on the night of the incident he could not tell who started the fight and he got involved to help protect his friends.
Sentencing is scheduled to take place on Oct. 11. Each defendant faces a maximum of 15 years in prison for the top count.
“They romanticize violence. Their attack was vicious, disproportionate and most important, unnecessary.”
Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass