Augustus Sol Invictus, formerly known as Austin Gillespie, was one of the organizers of the right-wing rally that erupted in violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. He is also a retired Florida lawyer who announced Tuesday he is seeking Florida’s Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Although he no longer practices law, Invictus’ involvement in the rally and its planning—his name featured prominently on posters advertising the rally—raises the question: Do white supremacists have a place in law?
According to the American Bar Association, it is generally what lawyers do—rather than what they believe—that can leave them open to attorney disciplinary action or a challenge to their admission to the bar.
“Any disciplinary action would be based on actions not beliefs. But each state bar has a character provision,” said ABA spokesman Robert Robinson.
There is at least one example of a known white supremacist being denied admission to the bar in Illinois—a case that was written about in a 2006 law review article. In that instance, the Illinois state bar denied admission to a recent law school graduate who was also the leader of a group that advocated the deportation of Jews, blacks and other minority groups.
Invictus previously ran a firm in Orlando called Imperium PA. He was admitted to the bar in at least four states—Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York—but as of Tuesday, none of those registrations remains active, according to bar records. In Florida, for instance, he is listed as retired.
He has largely steered clear of identifying directly as a white supremacist, having denied association with such groups during his previous Senate campaign in 2015, when he attempted to become the Libertarian Party nominee who would challenge Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. He mustered just over 1,000 votes on his way to losing the state’s Libertarian Party primary, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Despite his claims that he is not tied to white supremacy groups, he has advocated right-wing political views and is responsible for a website called “The Revolutionary Conservative,” which advocates a violent uprising with goals such as “the defense of the West, starting with the restoration of the American republic.”
In addition, the logo on the Facebook page of his former firm, Imperium, appears to be a “fasces,” which The New York Times described in a video on Tuesday about white supremacist symbols that were on display in Charlottesville. The Times reported that the fasces symbol harkens back to Italy’s National Fascist Party before and during World War II. Another version of the symbol appears at the top of Invictus’ Twitter page.
In his Senate candidacy announcement on Tuesday, Invictus referenced the events in Charlottesville, accusing the left of “physically attacking patriot gatherings, free speech rallies, and protests of the destruction of our heritage in the South.” He also accused the media of creating a “false narrative” that sought to blame right-wing activists for the violence in Charlottesville, and said federal politicians have gone along with the media, when “they should be concerned with the interests of American citizens, not the welfare of foreigners and the profits of special interests.”
If Invictus were still practicing law, his role in the Charlottesville rally might have been enough to get him in disciplinary hot water, said Richard Marx, a solo practitioner in Florida who handles defense for lawyers facing disciplinary complaints.
“I would think that anybody who is behaving in a way that relates to what I saw in the last couple days could have a serious problem with his license,” Marx said. “Once you have a license to practice law, your entire life becomes an open book and anything you do outside of the practice of law could lead to disciplinary action.”
Correction: This story was updated to reflect that Augustus Sol Invictus, not Austin Gillespie, is Invictus’s legal name.