Black Hammer leader’s lawyer disputes ‘street gang’ label

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Judge denies bond for leader charged with multiple felonies

A lawyer for the jailed leader of the Black Hammer Party on Wednesday disputed the state’s label of the extremist group as a street gang and described her client as “a model member of society.”

Attorney Stacey Flynn blasted prosecutors case against Augustus Claudius Romain Jr. as “exceptionally weak” in a bond hearing in Fayette County Superior Court. She cast Romain’s Black Hammer Party as a charitable organization that works with the homeless, rather than a violent criminal organization that strong arms donations from college students to help finance their operation, as prosecutors contend.

The 36-year-old Romain, who goes by the name Gazi Kodzo, faces charges of kidnapping, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and participating in a criminal street gang. The charges stem from a 911 call placed July 19 by prospective group member Dalvin Moore claiming that he had been kidnapped and was being held in a locked garage at the house the group rented in Fayetteville.

Romain has been jailed since dozens of police officers and FBI agents converged on the Selwyn Court home in what has since been revealed to be a wider investigation into the group and its leader. One of Romain’s top lieutenants, 21-year-old Xavier “Keno” Rushin, was also arrested and faces multiple felonies in the alleged kidnapping and assault. A third member of the group was found dead inside the house of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police reports.

Flynn said the aggravated sodomy charge against Romain is particularly weak. In a magistrate court hearing Tuesday, Fayetteville Police detectives said the alleged victim would not talk to police about Moore’s claim that he witnessed Romain sexually assault him at gunpoint.

“The state doesn’t have a victim. Period,” she said. “They don’t have any evidence at all other than the statement from Dalvin Moore.”

Founded in 2019, the Black Hammer Party is a radical, Black-led extremist group known for its bizarre, attention-grabbing antics, including a botched attempt to create a separatist community in the Colorado Rockies, an online antisemitic crusade against the memory of Anne Frank, spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, and an announced alliance with the Proud Boys.

Romain is also an unindicted coconspirator in a separate federal investigation into an alleged Russian influence operation where radical groups were paid to conduct protests designed to sow discord in the United States, according to a federal indictment unsealed last month in Tampa, Fla.

None of that makes them a street gang, Flynn said.

“This is an incorporated political organization,” she said. “I don’t know how they can be a gang.”

Fayette County Assistant District Attorney Ashton Fallin said the group qualifies as a street gang because its members acted together to commit crimes. Georgia law classifies groups as criminal street gangs if they break one of a long list of laws, including kidnapping. Fallin said Romain needed to be held without bond because he was a flight risk, citing his role as leader of a “worldwide organization” and his alleged ties to Russia.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Flynn downplayed the scope of the Black Hammer Party. The group has chapters in Atlanta, Chicago and Utah, as well as chapters in Kenya and Nigeria, but their numbers are small, she said. Each chapter has about 10 people, she said.

“None of them know Mr. Romain. They know of him,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing collapses.”

In Wednesday’s hearing, Superior Court Judge Scott Ballard ordered Romain continue to be held without bond in the Fayette County Jail pending his indictment on the charges.

On his own social media pages, as well as the social media pages of the Black Hammer Party, Romain has recorded himself and his group marching through the streets of Atlanta urging the killing of police and local politicians, including Mayor Andre Dickens. The group advocates violent revolution and the claiming of land by minorities and indigenous people.

Romain’s mother, Stone Mountain resident Nazarie Romain Anderson, testified that her son is “very loving” and she highlighted the group’s distribution of food and clothing to the homeless in downtown Atlanta.

“He is a very kind, loving, gentle person,” she said.