It was late on Saturday when I learned that Marc Randazza, attorney to the trolls, might be flying to Columbus, Ohio. Randazza would be leaving New York on Monday, I’d heard. On some flight. Any flight. I didn’t know the details. But I was intrigued.
For the past few months, I’ve been tracking Randazza’s most notorious client, Andrew Anglin, the deranged mind behind America’s biggest neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer. And Anglin is from Columbus. His Nazi business is based there. He’s registered to vote there. His family lives there. But Anglin himself is in hiding.
He had gone on the lam in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit brought against him in Montana federal court by Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent in Whitefish whom Anglin had attacked on his site last winter after Gersh became embroiled in a property dispute with the mother of Richard Spencer, a leader of the “alt-right” white supremacist movement. For weeks, Anglin’s army of troll readers bombarded Gersh with hateful, threatening messages, many of them referencing the Holocaust. To defend his client, Randazza had gone low, arguing that Anglin shouldn’t be held responsible for any of his followers’ threats because the Nazi doesn’t believe the genocide happened. (“Wow, just wow,” white supremacist attorney Kyle Bristow tweeted in apparent admiration of Randazza’s defense strategy.)
But the lawyerin’ didn’t stop there. Randazza is also asserting that the federal court has no jurisdiction over Anglin because, he claims, his client is domiciled overseas in an undisclosed location as a “stateless citizen.” Anglin might be living in Nigeria, Randazza has suggested ― or Russia, or Cambodia, maybe. A week ago, Anglin submitted a sworn declaration — complete with passport stamps — stating that in July 2013 he left Ohio and the greater United States “for the last time,” never to return.
That struck me as hooey for several reasons. While reporting on Anglin, I’d interviewed Robert “Azzmador” Ray, one of Anglin’s Nazi flunkies. I asked Ray, who lives in Texas, if he’d ever met Anglin in person. Ray told me he had. “Sometime in 2015,” he said. “He was visiting somebody in Houston and he asked me to drive down and we met in person.”
Last February, I’d almost cornered Anglin in a Columbus courthouse after he showed up for a mandatory in-person hearing to expunge a criminal record. A court clerk told me I’d missed him and his local attorney by a few minutes. Anglin later admitted on The Daily Stormer that he’d been at the courthouse.
And then there was the Columbus process server who’d been hired to find Anglin. The process server told me that in December he’d spotted Anglin in a Columbus-area grocery store. My report enraged Anglin and he told his readers that I’d fabricated the process server, only to have the man, Jeff Cremeans, come forward and submit a sworn declaration to the court two days later. Randazza dismissed Cremeans’ account as a “fantastic tale.”
How curious, then, that the attorney to the trolls was traveling to Anglin’s hometown of Columbus.
On Monday, Randazza settled into his seat on Delta 6016 and swiped through his Twitter feed. What a weekend he’d had. On Saturday, he’d partied in Hell’s Kitchen at the “Night for Freedom” bash thrown by another client, the far-right propagandist and PizzaGate pusher Mike Cernovich. Some big pro-Trump “free speech advocates” were there, speechifying about “brown people” and “faggots” and the genitalia of transgender women. The next day, Randazza met up with family members at Professor Thom’s, a sports bar in the East Village, to watch his Patriots win the AFC Championship.
Solid weekend. Real solid.
From his plane seat, Randazza banged out a few quick tweets, including a response to a friendly white supremacist who wanted to know whether he was in New York. Yes, Randazza told him. “My drone told me your whereabouts,” the white supremacist joked. Randazza didn’t have time to respond again. His plane was leaving.
I’d found out which flight the lawyer was on by comparing New York departure times to his Twitter activity. Randazza tweeted until Delta 6016 took off, then stopped. When the plane landed, he started tweeting again, responding to the friendly white supremacist’s drone joke. “Then where am i now?” Randazza tweeted, doing his best Jason Bourne impression.
Cremeans was already waiting for him at gate C56.
I’d called Cremeans earlier that day to ask if he’d heard anything about Randazza coming to town. He hadn’t, so I told him about Delta 6016. Cremeans decided to post up at the airport in “the hopes of trying to get Andrew Anglin served.” He told me he didn’t bother to hide as Randazza strutted out of the gate. The two made eye contact. “He was pissed,” Cremeans said. He filmed Randazza walking to baggage claim.
He filmed Randazza fidgeting.
Randazza tried to lose the process server by going into a bathroom. When he emerged, he hid behind a pillar. Then he took a photo of Cremeans, still unsure of who was following him.
Randazza made his way to an elevator. Cremeans took an escalator. The escalator, however, went down two levels, and by the time Cremeans had raced back to Randazza’s floor, the attorney had left the airport.
Randazza strives to create the appearance of distance between himself and his far-right clients. “I am a pretty far left-wing guy,” he told me in October. “Mr. Anglin and I certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on much.” But there is no little troll in Randazza, and he has more recently written that “those who are sometimes called ‘alt right’ are some of the most open and accepting of diverse views people I’ve met in politics.”
Views such as:
A few hours after Randazza gave Cremeans the slip, he couldn’t resist tweeting a photo of the ceiling of an unnamed Columbus restaurant.
I’d already called local hotels and learned that Randazza was staying downtown at the Westin in room 319. When I noticed his ceiling tweet, I looked for a restaurant match nearby and found one: Mitchell’s Steakhouse, a white-tablecloth, leather-booth joint. I called Cremeans. He was 30 minutes away. Randazza had been at Mitchell’s for over an hour by then. Cremeans figured the lawyer would be gone and decided to head home.
But an hour later, some locals I know opted to swing by the steakhouse and called me.
“Randazza?” I said.
“Anglin! He’s here right now!”
The locals had walked past a window of the steakhouse and spotted a small bald man who matched Anglin’s description. The man sat near the window, his back to the street. He wore a blue shirt, a red tie and hipster glasses with black rims, the locals said. He was at a table with another person, a man in his 30s with black hair wearing a blazer. Randazza was nowhere to be seen.
The locals held up their phones and tried to get a photo of the bald man through the blinds, but his companion noticed and nodded at the window to warn him. The bald man didn’t turn around to look, according to my sources. He seemingly knew better and twisted his body away from the cameras.
I called Cremeans. Aghast, he jumped in his car and gunned it for Mitchell’s, blowing through red lights. A few minutes later, my source outside Mitchell’s told me that the bald man had vanished. My source thought he’d seen the man and his companion rush out of the restaurant, across the street and into a bar attached to the Renaissance hotel.
“How certain are you that it was Anglin?” I asked.
“I’m 75 percent certain based on appearance, 90 percent certain considering his behavior.”
But was it? On Monday, Anglin’s normally prolific posting on Gab, a far-right social media platform, had dipped considerably. Was the Nazi distracted by his legal affairs?
By the time Cremeans arrived on the scene, he was too late. The process server searched for Anglin in the bar and the common areas of the Renaissance hotel without luck. There was, however, another surprise: Cremeans had brought a Vice News camera crew with him, the same one that had been in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the white supremacist riot last August. Elle Reeve and her producer, Josh Davis, had been following Cremeans around Columbus, piggybacking off my reporting and hoping to get the million-dollar shot of Anglin being served. On Monday night, the TV journalists stood outside the Renaissance hotel, helpless.
I called Randazza at his hotel room. He didn’t answer. I sent him an email and told him I’d be putting up a story about his being in Columbus and wanted to give him a chance to comment. On Tuesday, he emailed back. What follows is a rough transcript of our conversation, with some less-relevant questions and answers omitted:
Randazza: “Mitchell’s Steak House is supposed to be the best steakhouse in Columbus. I found it rather uninspired. The bone in filet was fine, but the sides were really bland. I think I’m spoiled after my years in Vegas.”
HuffPost: “Who’d you eat with? And what brought you to Columbus?”
Randazza: “I ate with a very nice person who believes in the First Amendment. I’m surprised that the crack squad of private investigators don’t have a photo of us. I’m here for work.”
HuffPost: “You in town for Anglin?”
Randazza: “Nope. What would give you that idea?”
HuffPost: “If you’re in Columbus for work but not for Anglin, just what are you up to? Columbus is Anglin’s hometown. People say they’ve spotted him there. So not crazy to think you might be there on Anglin-related business.”
Randazza: “Columbus is a rather large city ― there are a lot of reasons to be here outside of Andrew Anglin.”
HuffPost: “Can you give me a specific ‘work’ reason why you’re in Columbus that is not Anglin-related? (Bonus question: Were you at Professor Thom’s on Sunday to watch the Pats game?)”
Randazza: “I’m not disclosing why I’m here. Wtf does where i watched the patriots game have to do with this story?”
That night, he emailed to tell me he was in Chicago.
Trolls will troll.
On Wednesday, Anglin himself couldn’t resist chiming in on Gab to announce that he’d spoken to Randazza and was running low on funds to pay him. (Anglin, who has taken in hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin, often cries poor to sucker gullible readers into sending more money.)
Then Anglin revealed what might be Randazza’s fee. If accurate, the attorney is raking in the Reichsmarks.
And then Anglin posted this:
On Thursday, I heard from another set of local Columbus sources. People who had been inside Mitchell’s that night. I’d shown them photos of Randazza and Anglin. Both men, the sources said, had been in the steakhouse on Monday.
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