Judge In Zeiger Hearing Says Recommended Sentence “Trivializes The Crime” Of Neo-Nazi Propagandist

While both the prosecution and defence agreed on a three-month prison term followed by two years probation, the judge presiding over the case says it is not enough. 

Peter Smith
Canadian Anti-Hate Network

The judge presiding over the sentencing hearing of the prolific neo-Nazi propagandist known as Zeiger says they are worried that the sentence proposed by the prosecution and defence does not match the severity of the crime. 

Gabriel Sohier-Chaput was found guilty in January of willfully promoting hatred for his work under the pseudonym Charles Zeiger for the Daily Stormer, a clearinghouse for antisemitic, racist, and neo-Nazi news and analysis. 

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His conviction relates to one article published on the site, however, the 36-year-old Sohier-Chaput is credited with penning between 800 to 1,000 articles, hosting or appearing on numerous podcasts, and organizing in-person meet-ups.

In 2017, he travelled to the deadly United The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed counter protesting against the event when white supremacist James Alex Fields ran into a crowd with his car. 

Perhaps most seriously and unaddressed by the charges, he is the writer and editor of several books from the Iron March forum—a site that was a meeting ground for some of the most extreme voices and networks in the fascist movement. 

Sohier-Chaput is credited as the editor of the third edition of Siege by American white supremacist James Nolan Mason. Siege, originally written as a series of newsletters in the 1980s, promotes tactics that include the creation of small leaderless or decentralized cells to carry out violence and terrorism. Several groups to emerge from Iron March, including Atomwaffen, considered it a philosophically foundational text, and required reading for recruits. 

Mason and the Atomwaffen Division have both been designated terrorist entities by the Government of Canada. 

According to CTV News, Prosecutor Patrick Lafrenière recommended a sentence of three months, lower than other punishments meted out in similar cases.

"With respect, the sentence that you're suggesting trivializes the crime," Judge Manlio Del Negro reportedly told the court, citing other rulings that imposed sentences of up to a year. 

This included a misogynist blogger, Jean-Claude Rochefort, who was sentenced to 12 months for praising Marc Lépine, the perpetrator of the attack against Montreal's École Polytechnique that took the lives of 14 women. 

One of the other cases cited by Del Negro is that of Saskatchewan’s Travis Patron, who received a year in prison for promoting hatred against Jews.

No Borders Media has been covering every day of the Zeiger trial since Sohier-Chaput came out of hiding to turn himself in. According to its Twitter account, of the cases listed, sentences ranged from six to 16 months. 

Despite claims from the defence, and Sohier-Chaput himself, that he is a changed man, CTV says the judge cited a pre-sentencing report from May that stated Sohier-Chaput's views remained the same.

"What is most worrisome is the joy he took to writing, as he says, 'things that we cannot say because of history,'" portions of the report read, according to the CBC.

The judge told both the defence and prosecuting attorneys they "must not have read the same report."

During the hearing, Sohier-Chaput apologized for his actions.

"I recognize I could have made some people sad and brought on negative emotions. I regret it and apologize because it wasn't my intention," he reportedly said. 

“I'm now someone different.”

Del Negro called the apology opportunistic. 

"The only regrets and empathetic thoughts he expressed are directed at his loved ones, who have experienced the direct consequences of his delinquent actions," Probation officer Gabrielle Boulanger-Dumont wrote in the report.

No Borders Media obtained a copy of the report which is available in French

“Mr. Sohier Chaput persists in feeling justified in having acted as he did,” a digitally translated excerpt reads.  

“Apart from the fact that he alleges that he is no longer actively involved in any movement or speaking out, he retains the same basic assumptions and ideologies underlying his criminal conduct.”

When charges were filed in 2018, Sohier-Chaput was on the run for two years, and the public does not know where he was — or who was hiding him.

He operated completely in secret until exposed by the Montreal Gazette in 2018. Montréal Antifasciste, a collective of antifascist activists who assisted the Gazette in their investigation, also published an article tracing Sohier-Chaput’s activities within the modern fascist movement.

The sentence is expected to be delivered on September 22. Sohier Chaput’s lawyer has filed for an appeal of the verdict.

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