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Two Texas 'Trump Train' participants settle lawsuit claiming they harassed 2020 Biden campaign bus

The Biden-Harris campaign bus arrives in Abilene on Oct. 28, 2020.
Ronald W. Erdrich
/
Abilene Reporter-News via Reuters
The Biden-Harris campaign bus arrives in Abilene on Oct. 28, 2020.

Two of the eight Trump supporters accused of participating in a “politically-motivated conspiracy” by closely following, honking at and slowing down a campaign bus for President Joe Biden on a Texas highway in the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election have settled with former state Sen. Wendy Davis and three others on the bus.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs announced Thursday they have filed papers to dismiss Hannah Ceh and Kyle Kruger as defendants in the lawsuit. The case against the six other defendants remains pending.

The terms of the settlement were not made public, but the two issued formal apologies for their involvement in the “Trump Train,” according to a press release from Project Democracy, the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

“Looking back, I would have done things differently. I do not feel that I was thinking things through at the time, and I apologize to the occupants of the bus for my part in actions that day that frightened or intimidated them,” Ceh wrote in her apology.

The plaintiffs, who also include a Biden campaign volunteer, a former campaign staffer and the bus driver, claimed in the lawsuit that Ceh, Kruger and six others violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and Texas law when they, along with dozens of people in trucks with Donald Trump flags, surrounded the bus as it drove up Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Austin, shouting and honking at the bus and successfully slowing it to a crawl in a deliberate attempt to intimidate supporters and disrupt the campaign.

“I knew that my driving was risky, but I wanted to express my opposition to their campaign and send them a message to leave my community,” Kruger added in his apology. “While I regret now participating in such risky activity, and apologize to the occupants of the bus for my part in the actions that day, at the time I and other Trump Train participants were happy that, after our actions, the Biden campaign canceled the rest of the bus tour.”

The confrontation, which was captured on video, made national news in the days leading up to the 2020 presidential election. It featured at least one minor collision and led to Texas Democrats canceling three scheduled campaign events in Central Texas due to “safety concerns.” The confrontation infringed on their First Amendment rights, the plaintiffs argued in the lawsuit.

The Klan Act bars groups from joining together to obstruct free and fair federal elections by intimidating and injuring voters, or denying them the ability to engage in political speech.

John Paredes, a lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs, previously told The Texas Tribune that people had rarely been sued under the provision of the Klan Act cited in the lawsuit in past years, but it has been increasingly used in legal arguments during the Trump administration. It was also cited in the federal lawsuit against Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Ceh and Kruger, who represented themselves in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the lawsuit, a group of Trump supporters who documented their progress on social media showed up at the campaign’s stops throughout Texas for several days. On Oct. 30, a social media user using the hashtag #TrumpTrainTexas posted on Twitter, “Trolling is FUN.” The user called for other Trump supporters to “escort the Biden [bus] coming through San Antonio.”

Across the country, caravans of Trump supporters dubbed themselves “Trump Trains” and gathered to support the former president’s reelection campaign throughout the fall of 2020 leading up to Election Day. The groups largely organized themselves on social media.

Two of the other defendants who have not settled, Steve and Randi Ceh, were leaders of the New Braunfels Trump Train, according to the filing. Hannah Ceh is their daughter and a member of the group.

The filing alleges that Kruger, who is engaged to Ceh, according to her social media, was driving her white Toyota Tundra while she sat in the passenger seat. According to the filing, Ceh posted videos to social media that showed her license plate number, which matched the license plate of one of the cars that allegedly surrounded the bus. Screenshots of Instagram posts attached to the lawsuit show Ceh in the passenger seat with text on the image that says “#operationblockthebus.” The filing said the social media posts show Ceh and Kruger driving “within inches of the bus.”

At one point, the filing claims, Ceh told Kruger that she was “getting too nervous” and participating in the caravan was “stressing her out.”

“Nevertheless, Defendant Kruger continued to come close to the Biden-Harris Campaign bus and abruptly swerved next to it,” the filing read.

Davis and the other plaintiffs filed a second lawsuit against San Marcos police, alleging they turned a blind eye to the attack. 911 transcripts filed in that lawsuit revealed San Marcos police refused to send help despite repeated requests for those on the bus. That lawsuit is ongoing.

The lawsuit against the “Trump Train” participants remains ongoing against the six other plaintiffs. In March, U.S. District Judge John Pittman set a trial date for April 22, 2024.


From The Texas Tribune

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