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Context of 'February 28, 2005: Judge’s Husband, Mother Murdered; White Supremacist Church Members Suspected'

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White supremacist Randy Weaver surrenders after an 11-day standoff with federal authorities at his cabin on Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The standoff cost the lives of Weaver’s wife and son, and a US marshal. The incident, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, will “galvanize… many on the radical right.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]

Entity Tags: Randy Weaver, Southern Poverty Law Center

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Matthew Hale, attempting to revive and expand the nearly-defunct Church of the Creator (COTC—see 1973 and July-December 1995), joins with two old COTC members, Matthew Hayhow (see August 1990) and Guy Lombardi, and convenes a gathering at the Montana ranch of COTC leader leader Slim Deardorff. Hale is elected Pontifex Maximus (supreme leader), and Jonathan Viktor, a devotee of COTC founder Ben Klassen, is chosen Hastus Primus, or vice president, of the reconstituted group, now officially named the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC). Hale is successful at revitalizing the organization, aggressively marketing it through pamphlets, newsletters, Web sites, a public access television show, and highly publicized public meetings. Perhaps its most popular publication is a 32-page booklet entitled “Facts that the Government and the Media Don’t Want You to Know,” which many people find on their porches and in their driveways. The booklet, written by Hale, denigrates nonwhites and promotes anti-Semitic theories about Jewish control of the media, the so-called “Kosher Food Tax,” and material allegedly demonstrating the biological superiority of whites. Unlike many white supremacist organizations, Hale works to reach out to women and children, offering far more recognition and involvement to women than other, similar movements. Hale himself is a frequent guest on national television and radio talk shows. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]

Entity Tags: Slim Deardorff, Benhardt (“Ben”) Klassen, Guy Lombardi, Matthew Hale, Jonathan Viktor, World Church of the Creator, Matthew Hayhow

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Benjamin ‘August’ Smith.Benjamin ‘August’ Smith. [Source: Eye on Hate (.com)]Benjamin “August” Smith, a troubled 21-year-old man who devoutly believes in the racist teachings of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), goes on a three-day killing spree targeted at Jews and non-whites. Smith gave himself the nickname of “August” because he believes his given name sounds Jewish, and as a reference to the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. Smith was expelled from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for several run-ins with police, and is in trouble at his current school, the University of Indiana, for distributing WCOTC literature and penning racist screeds for the student newspaper (see August 27, 1998). His girlfriend has broken up with him due to his physical and emotional abuse towards her. The event that apparently triggers Smith’s killing spree is Illinois’s denial of a law license to Matthew Hale, the leader of the WCOTC and a man Smith considers to be his mentor (see July 2, 1999).
July 2: One Killed, Six Injured - Smith, driving a light blue Ford Taurus and carrying a .380 semiautomatic and a .22 pistol, begins the killing spree on July 2 in a Chicago suburb when he sees a group of Orthodox Jews walking home from Sabbath services; he opens fire on them, injuring six. A short time later, Smith sees Ricky Byrdsong, an African-American and the former basketball coach of Northwestern University, walking with two of his children in his front yard in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. Smith shoots and kills Byrdsong from his car. He then fires on an Asian couple in the Northwood suburb, but misses them both.
July 3: Three Injured - On July 3, while police are piecing together the events of the Chicago shootings, Smith drives to Springfield, Illinois, where he shoots at two African-Americans, wounding one and missing the other. He then drives to Decatur where he shoots and wounds Stephen Anderson, an African-American minister. He then drives to Champaign-Urbana, where he critically wounds an Asian student.
July 4: One Killed, Shooter Commits Suicide - On July 4, Smith shoots and kills Won-Joon Yoon, a University of Indiana doctoral student standing outside his Birmingham, Indiana church. Smith abandons his Taurus in Ina, Illinois, hijacks a van from a gas station, and flees. Police, alerted to the hijacking, locate him traveling towards Salem, Illinois. The police chase Smith down the highway until he shoots himself below the chin in a suicide attempt; the badly wounded Smith crashes the van and shoots himself twice more before being taken to the hospital, where he is pronounced dead on arrival. A search of the Taurus reveals that Smith carefully planned his shooting spree, though he chose his victims apparently at random. A journal left in the car contains anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi writings; the journal opens, “Anyone who knows the history of this plague upon humanity who calls themselves Jews will know why I have acted.” The car also contains a bulletproof vest and receipts showing Smith has cashed in two retirement accounts. The police subsequently find and search a storage locker Smith had rented; it houses Nazi armbands and flags, a computer, printers, and floppy disks. [Los Angeles Times, 7/6/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003]
Reactions - A former Indiana roommate, Tyrese Alexander, says of Smith after the shootings: “There was never really a, ‘I don’t like you, I hate you because you’re black.’ He seemed to harbor intense anger, but it was never of a physical nature. He never lashed out at anybody. He just had an angry look on his face.… He seemed mad at the world. But I had no idea it would end like this.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/6/1999; CNN, 7/6/1999] Hale mourns his death, saying that Smith was “a pleasant person who believes in his people, who believes in his people, the white people, I can’t say anything bad about him,” and declares he feels nothing for the victims. Some believe that Hale may have known more of Smith’s plans than he admits. Of Smith’s victims, Hale says, “As far as we’re concerned, the loss is one white man.” [CNN, 7/6/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
'Martyr' for Radical Rightists - Many radical rightists will quickly declare Smith a “martyr” for the cause and an “exemplary student” of the movement. The spree will help bolster the WCOTC membership, which will expand into 17 states and a large Internet presence. [CNN, 7/6/1999; Albion Monitor, 7/26/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003] The WCOTC will eventually change its name to the “Creativity Movement” (see November 2002). Hale will be sentenced to prison in 2005 for soliciting the murder of a federal judge (see April 6, 2005). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]

Entity Tags: Matthew Hale, Tyrese Alexander, Ricky Byrdsong, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Stephen Anderson, University of Indiana, Benjamin Smith, World Church of the Creator, Won-Joon Yoon

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) loses a trademark infringement lawsuit brought against it by the Te-Ta-Ma Truth Foundation, which had successfully trademarked the name “Church of the Creator” years before. Federal District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow originally rules in WCOTC’s favor, but her verdict is overturned on appeal. She orders the group to stop using the name, to give up its Web addresses, and to turn over all printed material bearing the name. Group leader Matthew Hale refuses to comply, and files a lawsuit against Lefkow, claiming that she has ordered the destruction of the group’s Bibles. “If federal judges are to sit in judgment of the people, the people must be able to sit in judgment of them,” Hale says. The WCOTC’s various Web sites urge its followers to picket Lefkow’s church, and refer to her as “a white woman married to a Jew with three mixed grandchildren.” [New York Times, 1/9/2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005] For years afterwards, Lefkow will be plagued by an incessant round of death threats, as WCOTC and other white supremacist organizations publish her name, address, and family photographs on their Web sites along with an array of violent threats. In 2003, Hale will be charged with soliciting her murder (see January 9, 2003). “Underground” radio broadcaster Hal Turner will say on his show that Lefkow is “worthy of being killed,” adding that “it wouldn’t be legal, but in my opinion it wouldn’t be wrong.” In 2005, Lefkow’s husband and mother will be murdered, possibly by Hale supporters (see February 28, 2005). [New York Times, 3/2/2005]

Entity Tags: World Church of the Creator, Harold Charles (“Hal”) Turner, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Matthew Hale, Te-Ta-Ma Truth Foundation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A courtroom illustration of Matthew Hale listening to instructions from Judge John Moody.A courtroom illustration of Matthew Hale listening to instructions from Judge John Moody. [Source: Verna Sadock / Getty Images]Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), is convicted of one count of solicitation of murder and three counts of obstruction of justice in regards to his attempt to solicit the murder of a judge (see January 9, 2003). Hale never testified on his own behalf. Defense counsel Thomas Anthony Durkin called no witnesses, saying the prosecution’s evidence was the weakest he had seen in a major case, arguing that Hale was set up by an FBI informant. Durkin says he will appeal, and will prove that prosecutors have been “out to get Hale” because of his suspected involvement in a shooting spree by WCOTC member Benjamin Smith five years ago (see July 2-4, 1999; the jury heard audiotapes of Hale laughing about Smith’s murders and mocking the victims). US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the lead prosecutor in the case, says the trial’s outcome proves “that we will not wait for the trigger to be pulled” before taking action. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005; Associated Press, 4/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Matthew Hale, Benjamin Smith, World Church of the Creator, Thomas Anthony Durkin, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A popular image of Adolf Hitler, created in the style of the 2008 Obama campaign poster and using the campaign slogan ‘Yes We Can,’ posted on Podblanc in 2009.A popular image of Adolf Hitler, created in the style of the 2008 Obama campaign poster and using the campaign slogan ‘Yes We Can,’ posted on Podblanc in 2009. [Source: Podblanc / OccupiedOregon (.com)]Avowed white supremacist Craig Cobb (see October 31, 2005) moves to Estonia and founds Podblanc, an Internet-based videosharing Web site. It is similar to YouTube, but Cobb and his supporters refuse to use that facility, calling it “Jew Tube” because its operators censor racist and anti-Semitic content. Podblanc offers over 1,000 channels of video content, including combat handgun training, bomb-making tutorials, a description of security measures at three northern California synagogues, and an audio recording of The Turner Diaries, the infamous race-war fantasy novel (see 1978). The most popular video on the site shows Russian neo-Nazis beheading and shooting Asiatic immigrants; other popular videos show skinheads attacking random Jewish and minority victims. Cobb was a member of the violent World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) until its collapse after its leader, Matthew Hale, was arrested for soliciting the murder of a judge (see January 9, 2003 and 2004-2005). Cobb posted the name and home address of the judge on the internet, which may have led to the murder of her husband and mother (see February 28, 2005). Cobb has also attended events sponsored by the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974), and distributes “The Aryan Alternative,” a white supremacist periodical written by Alex Linder, the founder of the Vanguard News Network (VNN), and published by former White Patriot Party leader Glenn Miller. Cobb documents WCOTC, VNN, and other organizations and events on Podblanc. Estonian authorities will force Cobb to leave their country in 2009; in 2010, Podblanc will go dormant when its host decides to refuse to carry its racist and violent content any longer. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2007; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2009; Anti-Racist Canada, 6/25/2010]

Entity Tags: National Alliance, Craig Cobb, Alex Linder, Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr, Matthew Hale, White Patriot Party, Podblanc, Vanguard News Network, World Church of the Creator

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey are found dead of gunshots to the head in the Lefkows’ Chicago basement. The two are the husband and mother, respectively, of Federal District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who has endured four years’ worth of death threats ever since she ordered the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) to abandon its name as a result of a trademark infringement lawsuit (see November 2002). Authorities are investigating whether members of the Creativity Movement, as the WCOTC is now known, are responsible for the murders. In 2004, WCOTC leader Matthew Hale was convicted of soliciting Lefkow’s murder (see April 26, 2004). Her daughter Laura Lefkow says, “I think she’s very upset with herself, maybe, for being a judge and putting her family in this danger, but there’s no way she should have known.” White supremacists celebrate the murders on their Web sites, while others theorize that Hale’s enemies murdered the two to affect his upcoming sentencing for his crimes (see April 6, 2005). Bill White, the editor of the Libertarian Socialist News, writes: “Everyone associated with the Matt Hale trial has deserved assassination for a long time. I don’t feel bad that Judge Lefkow’s family was murdered today. In fact, when I heard the story, I laughed.” Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, says, “We saw what happened the last time Matt Hale got slapped in the face by the system; the price of that was two dead and nine severely wounded.” Potok is referring to the 1999 killing spree by WCOTC member Benjamin Smith in response to Hale’s denial of a law license (see July 2-4, 1999). “Now Matt Hale is about to be sentenced, very probably, to most of his natural life to federal prison. It’s very possible that a Hale follower or sympathizer has decided to fight back.” Hale’s friend Billy Roper, who leads a group called White Revolution, disavows the murders, but draws a parallel between the Lefkow murders and the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992), saying: “We can stand alongside the federal law enforcement community in saying just as they felt a deep regret and sadness over the death of Randy Weaver’s family, so we also feel a deep sense of regret and sadness over the death of Judge Lefkow’s family. If it was the case that someone was misguided and thought that they were helping Matt Hale, then it would be similar in that other people had suffered for one person’s mistake.” Hale’s mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, says her son had nothing to do with the murders: “He had nothing to do with what went on last night. My son is sitting in a hole where he’s not allowed to even speak loud enough to be audible. Common sense would tell you, if he were into having somebody kill somebody—which he is not—would he have somebody go kill the judge’s family just before he’s sentenced? Somebody has done this to make him get an enhanced sentence.” Chicago Police Department official James Molloy says: “There is much speculation about possible links between this crime and the possible involvement of hate groups. This is but one facet of our investigation. We are looking in many, many directions.” [New York Times, 3/2/2005; Chicago Tribune, 3/10/2005] Days later, the Chicago police will say that a man with no connection to Hale’s group may be responsible for the shootings (see March 10, 2005).

Entity Tags: Donna Humphrey, Bill White, Benjamin Smith, Billy Roper, Evelyn Hutcheson, James Molloy, Matthew Hale, Mark Potok, World Church of the Creator, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Michael Lefkow, Laura Lefkow

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Bart Ross.Bart Ross. [Source: America's Most Wanted]Chicago police say that the murders of the husband and mother of a judge who ruled against white supremacist group the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After and February 28, 2005) may have been committed by a man with no connections to the group. Bart Ross of Albany Park, Illinois, shoots himself in the head during a routine traffic stop, dying minutes later. In his suicide note, Ross claims responsibility for the double murder of US District Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother. However, police decline to claim that Ross is definitely the shooter. “We’re satisfied there is information in the letter that would point to Ross being in the Lefkow house that day” of the slayings, says Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline. The suicide note includes details of the shooting “that were not out in the media.” However, Cline says, “While we do characterize [Wednesday] night’s developments as significant, we are not prepared at this time to definitely say any one person is responsible for these homicides. This case is by no means closed.” Other documents retrieved from Ross’s minivan recount his bitterness and hatred for Lefkow and other judges, stemming from court dealings he has had over a medical condition. Police refuse to call any of the documents a “hit list,” though the documents include the names of several judges and lawyers. Lefkow dismissed a lawsuit by Ross last September. The day of the murders, Ross was served an eviction notice by Cook County deputies. Police are searching for DNA and other forensic evidence to tie Ross into the murders; Cline says, “We are attempting to learn as much as we possibly can about Bart Ross’s history—who he was, who he was associated with, and what he was doing in the days leading up to and following the Lefkow murders.” Local television station WMAQ receives a handwritten letter, signed Bart A. Ross, claiming that the author broke into the Lefkow home at 4:30 a.m. with the intention of killing the judge and anyone else in the house. According to the letter, the writer waited all day in a basement utility room before shooting the husband, Michael Lefkow, when Lefkow discovered him hiding in the room. The writer claims to have then shot the mother, Donna Humphrey, after she heard the gunshot and called out to her son-in-law. The writer says he then waited for the judge to come home, but left hours before she arrived later that evening. Police sources say they believe the letter to be legitimate. WCOTC leader Matthew Hale has been a prime suspect in soliciting the murders; Hale’s attorney Glenn Greenwald reveals that six to eight weeks before the murders, Hale’s mother asked him to pass what was clearly a coded message from Hale to a WCOTC follower. Greenwald says he refused because he did not understand what Hale was saying in the note. [Chicago Tribune, 3/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Bart Ross, Glenn Greenwald, Matthew Hale, Philip J. Cline, Donna Humphrey, Michael Lefkow, World Church of the Creator

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

White supremacist Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), receives a 40-year sentence for soliciting the murder of US District Court Judge Joan Lefkow (see January 9, 2003). Lefkow ruled against Hale’s group in a trademark dispute (see November 2002). Hale is sentenced after a rambling, two-hour statement in which he claims he is the victim. “I have to go back to a solitary cell—I have to go back to hell,” Hale tells Judge James Moody. “They want me to die in a hole.” In his statement, Hale compares the FBI to the Gestapo, says the national news media was out to get him, blames his former lawyer for representing him poorly, and chants the national anthem. He claims that he and Lefkow are “on the same side against these liars.” Moody, unmoved by Hale’s statement, gives Hale the maximum sentence for his crimes. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald argued that Hale’s crime was essentially an act of domestic terrorism and Moody agrees. “Mr. Hale is not concerned about taking someone’s life, but rather how to do it without getting caught,” Moody says. “I consider Mr. Hale to be extremely dangerous and the offense for which he was convicted to be extremely egregious.” After the ruling, Fitzgerald tells reporters, “I put no stock in his claims, the crocodile tears, that he didn’t do anything wrong.” Hale’s mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, tells reporters: “I think it’s absolutely horrible. “Matt’s the only one in there telling the… truth.” [National Public Radio, 4/6/2005; Associated Press, 4/7/2005] Hale will serve his sentence at the Florence, Colorado, “supermax” prison, the same prison where convicted bombers Eric Rudolph (see July 18, 2005) and Ted Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996) are held. [Chicago Sun-Times, 4/28/2005]

Entity Tags: World Church of the Creator, Evelyn Hutcheson, James Moody, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Matthew Hale, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

ANSWP leader Bill White giving a Nazi salute.ANSWP leader Bill White giving a Nazi salute. [Source: SPLC / Roanoke Times]Bill White, the leader of the American National Socialist Workers Party (ANSWP), is convicted in Roanoke, Virginia, of issuing death threats to several people, including Citibank employee Jennifer Petsche, a university administrator, and a human rights lawyer, and of intimidating tenants in Virginia Beach who had filed a lawsuit against their landlord. A judge will dismiss the charge of threatening the lawyer, but will uphold the other convictions. On March 22, 2007, White left a voicemail message for Petsche on her home phone informing her of his identity and saying that he had sent her an email concerning a credit card dispute he was having with Citibank. The email contained her current and former address, including the location of her parents’ home, and compared her to Chicago judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, whose husband and mother were murdered (see February 28, 2005) after a neo-Nazi had posted Lefkow’s home address on a Web site. “I must admit I have run out of patience with you and your smug attitude,” White wrote. “I hope the fact that I’ve obviously paid someone to find you conveys the seriousness with which I take your current attitude.” Petsche informed authorities and White was placed under surveillance. White was arrested in October 2008; his arrest forced the shutdown of the ANSWP blog and led to the collapse of the entire organization, which in 2008 had 35 chapters in 28 states. Before his trial, White complained that “the federal government has launched a massive effort to ‘decapitate’ white organizations.” During his trial, White was found to have posted personal information on a large number of persons on the ANSWP Web site, in many cases calling for his followers to track them down and attack them. Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism says: “We live in a world where rhetoric is increasingly tilting toward violence, where extremists are becoming adept at going up to the line but not crossing it. The law is struggling to untangle protected hate speech from unprotected violence and threats, which often come in the same package. These trials put hate-mongers on notice: If they target their venom too narrowly, too violently, and too explicitly, they run the risk of crossing from political discourse to prison.” White has used the Internet to harass and threaten people since 1996, when he posted the name and phone number of a woman whom he believed was abusing her teenage daughter. “You should be able to write what you want on the Internet, whether it’s true or not,” he told a reporter at the time. For years, White ran Overthrow.com, a popular neo-Nazi Web site. In September 2007, after six black teenagers beat a white teenager in Jena, Louisiana, he posted five of their addresses and phone numbers under a banner that proclaimed, “Lynch the Jena 6!” He advised his readers to “get in touch and let them know justice is coming.” Local police provided the teens’ families with protection. White has long posted virulently racist material on his Web site, frequently using racial slurs and calling African-Americans “nig-rats” and “vermin.” White did not restrict his rhetoric to blacks; in 2007, he advocated the assassination of George W. Bush, writing that “a well-placed bullet can solve a lot of problems,” and has advised that “we need to start SHOOTING AND KILLING Mexicans as they cross the border.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2010]

Entity Tags: William Alexander (“Bill”) White, American National Socialist Workers Party, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Brian Levin, George W. Bush, Jennifer Petsche

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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