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Indiana white nationalist leader pleads guilty in Trump rally case

Posted at 12:53 PM, Jul 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 12:55:56-04

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A white nationalist was fined, ordered to attend anger management classes and given a suspended jail sentence Wednesday, resolving allegations that he physically harassed a woman who protested at a Donald Trump rally in Louisville last year.

Matthew Heimbach, 26, entered an Alford plea, which enables him to maintain innocence while acknowledging that there's sufficient evidence to convince a jury he's guilty of second-degree disorderly conduct, media outlets reported.

Heimbach, of Paoli, Indiana, is chairman of the Traditionalist Worker Party. Along with anger management classes and a fine of $145, he was ordered Wednesday to have no contact with the victim. Jefferson County District Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke waived a 90-day sentence on the condition he not re-offend within two years.

A criminal summons said Heimbach got too close to Kashiya Nwanguma, who is African-American, and screamed, yelled and pushed her multiple times to get her out of the building where the Trump rally took place in March 2016.

Heimbach previously told The Associated Press he believed the case was the product of a "huge social media campaign" by "anti-fascists" and "far-left activists."

"This is a completely politically motivated charge," he said. "I believe 110 percent that I followed all laws. I acted reasonably."

In 2016, Call 6 Investigates' Kara Kenney sat down with Heimbach, who said he was wrongfully fired by the Indiana Department of Child Services.

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Heimbach called himself a white nationalist and a pro-white community activist. 

He denied being racist, if you define racist as someone that hates races other than their own.

“I’ve never been a hate filled person,” said Heimbach. “I have no animosity toward any other group, but (racist) is this title thrown out for any white person who thinks we should be able to stand up for ourselves.”

Ashley Hungate, a spokesperson for the Indiana State Personnel Department, said Heimbach was dismissed for his behavior at work. 

"His behavior in training was disruptive of the workplace, incompatible with public service, and not protected speech," she said. "For example, what I’ve been told is that, while in training, his response to a question suggested violence against a client.”

Watch Kenney's story on Heimbach in the video player above. 

Heimbach currently also faces a federal lawsuit, which also names Trump, his campaign and two other Trump supporters as defendants. Trump's lawyers asked the court this week for an order to prevent subjecting the president to a deposition.

When he ruled in April that the suit can proceed, Judge David J. Hale in Louisville said ample facts support allegations that the protesters' injuries were a "direct and proximate result" of Trump's actions, and noted that the Supreme Court has ruled out constitutional protections for speech that incites violence.

"It is plausible that Trump's direction to `get `em out of here' advocated the use of force," the judge wrote. "It was an order, an instruction, a command."

The judge also denied Heimbach's request to dismiss the lawsuit's discussion of his chairmanship of the Traditionalist Worker Party, which describes itself as "fighting to secure the existence of our people and a future for white children," as well as statements Heimbach made about how Trump could advance the group's interests. The judge said such information could be important when determining punitive damages.