Victorian Neo-Nazis Walk Free After Guilty Plea To Hiker Attack
Far-right neo-nazi leaders Thomas Sewell and Jacob Hersant have avoided further jail time for their attack on a group of hikers in a Victorian state park in 2021.
Trigger Warning: This story has details of homophobic, transphobic and anti-Semitic comments, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
On Friday, a Victorian County Court judge ruled that the time they had already served in custody was sufficient punishment and wished them “good luck” as they left court.
Sewell and Hersant initially pleaded guilty in court, but later claimed they were innocent upon their release.
Sewell said he accepted a plea deal to avoid more time in prison, arguing that the witnesses against them had fabricated evidence.
“There’s no way these gay, Jewish, communist witnesses are going to be reasonable. They’re going to exacerbate, and they’re anti-fascist so they’ve got a political motivation to make false accusations,” said Sewell.
Sewell claimed the attack was done in self defence, after the hikers tried to run over one of the members.
“We have behaved honourably at all times… We are a law-abiding organisation.” Sewell continued .
“We’re looking for political change in this country and we’re not looking to harm or hurt anyone.”
In May 2021, a group of hikers came across the neo-nazi groups wearing white Celtic cross emblems whilst exploring the Cathedral Range State Park.
After seeing multiple posters around the park saying “‘Australia for the white man,” one of the hikers decided to look up neo-Nazi symbols online and recorded a video of the group from their car.
The groups included Sewell and Hersant, both leaders in the European Australian Movement and National Socialist Network, and several other members.
Spotting the hikers, multiple members swarmed and encircled the hikers, shaking and hitting the car. Many donned balaclavas and other members also wielded knives.
Hersant extended his arm through the driver’s side window, either in an attempt to retrieve the car keys or to shut off the ignition.
Sewell also attempted to reach inside the car by allegedly breaking the window, which resulted in an injury to his arm.
No Additional Jail Time
Judge Kellie Blair recognised that Hersant and Sewell “were both active participants in the offending.”
Noting that the attack was not premeditated, the judge expressed her view that the attack on the hikers was neither politically nor racially motivated.
“In both your cases, your prospects of rehabilitation are promising,” she affirmed.
Judge Blair handed down a five-week jail sentence to Sewell, but he was not required to return to custody, having already spent time in prison when his bail was denied.
Hersant received a three-day jail sentence, which equated to the duration he had already spent in custody.
“Good luck with the future, gentlemen,” said Judge Blair at the end of the hearing.
Following the hearing, about 10 supporters of Sewell and Hersant celebrated with hugs and high-fives as the two men were allowed to leave the court dock.
Victorian police are now investigating one of the supporters, after allegedly performing the Nazi salute and saying “heil Hitler” outside the court.
Since last week, it is illegal to perform the salute in the state following the multiple incidents of its uses from neo-nazi groups in Melbourne.
Both far-right neo-nazi groups have previously disrupted and spouted homophobic and transphobic comments at multiple LGBTQI+ events.
Sewell is the founder of the National Socialist Network and has been responsible for threatening many queer youth events involving drag performers.
In March, the neo-nazi groups were also involved in the counter protests of far-right anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen’s, performing the Nazi salute and chanting “white power” on the steps of Victorian Parliament.