A man police say is the leader of Australia’s nationalist socialist movement is to fight charges he assaulted a security guard outside Nine’s office building in Melbourne.
Thomas Sewell appeared in an online hearing before Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday, accused of repeatedly punching the guard on March 1.
Police say Mr Sewell and a friend went to the network’s office building in Docklands – which also houses The Age – and demanded to see staff from A Current Affair, which was to broadcast a report that night about the pair’s group.
Police allege that when the guard escorted the two men from the building, Mr Sewell repeatedly punched him. Mr Sewell is charged with affray, recklessly causing injury and unlawful assault.
On Tuesday magistrate John Hardy read an application written by Mr Sewell’s lawyers and said the accused man disputed the police version of events and also claimed he was acting in defence of another person. Mr Sewell’s friend filmed the clash with the guard but was not charged.
Mr Sewell’s lawyer, Kieran Reynolds, confirmed the defence sought to contest the charges in a hearing next year.
The magistrate adjourned the case to May 20 and extended Mr Sewell’s bail but warned the accused man he ran the risk of being remanded if he was charged with further criminal offences.
Mr Sewell, 28, has pleaded not guilty to unrelated charges including armed robbery, violent disorder, affray and criminal damage and is awaiting trial in the County Court over allegations he was one of 15 neo-Nazis who attacked a car at the Cathedral Range State Park, north-east of Melbourne, on May 8 while three hikers were inside.
Police say the alleged neo-Nazis – all wearing black T-shirts and some in balaclavas – ran to the car and punched and kicked it when one of their group saw a hiker filming them. Mr Sewell is accused of punching and smashing a window.
Investigators allege the group demanded the hikers hand over their mobile phones before they were allowed to drive away.
Mr Sewell was last week granted bail by a County Court judge despite police concerns he was prepared to use violence to advance his ideological beliefs.
A detective last week described Mr Sewell as a believer in a “neo-Nazi ideology” who had previously described himself as a “political soldier for the white race” and claimed that “Adolf Hitler is my leader”.
Defence barrister James McQuillan said last week that there was no evidence the hikers had identified Mr Sewell, and that there were “a number of hypotheses” on how he might have injured his hand.
Judge Peter Lauritsen bailed the former soldier to live with his father. The judge said Mr Sewell’s trial was unlikely to start until 2023 at the earliest given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Victoria’s courts.
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