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Profile: Daniel Levitas
Daniel Levitas was a participant or observer in the following events:
Farmer and mechanic Gordon Kahl, a World War II veteran who earned two Purple Hearts while flying bombing missions and a convert to the Christian Identity “religion” (see 1960s and After), now embraces the burgeoning anti-tax protest ideology (see 1951-1967). He writes a letter to the IRS telling it that he will never again “give aid and comfort to the enemies of Christ” by paying income taxes, which he calls tithing to “the synagogue of Satan.” Kahl is a virulent anti-Semite who believes that World War II was engineered by Jewish bankers who had “created” and backed Adolf Hitler in order to subjugate “the feisty German people.” Kahl denies that the Holocaust ever occurred, calling the concentration camps “mostly work camps” where less than 50,000 Jews died. Communism, he writes, is a “smoke screen” for “world Jewry,” which uses every means at its disposal—including the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs—to deceive and undermine Christians. To his friends and family, Kahl is a loving father and husband and a scrupulously honest businessman, but as author Daniel Levitas will write in 2003: “These virtuous aspects of his character did not extend beyond his small Anglo-Saxon circle, however. Kahl’s world was divided strictly into opposites and he felt only murderous contempt for those who fell on the other side of the line—satanic Jews, nonwhites, and the Christian lackeys of the International Jewish Conspiracy.” Kahl is a firm believer in ZOG, the “Zionist Occupied Government” of the United States, and he believes that most law enforcement officials are either unwitting dupes of this “conspiracy” or knowing members. Kahl leaves California for the West Texas oilfields, and in 1973 joins the anti-tax, anti-government Posse Comitatus (see 1969). [Levitas, 2002, pp. 193] Kahl will be convicted of tax evasion (see 1975 - 1981) and, fleeing incarceration, will kill two police officers in a shootout and later die himself after killing a third (see February 13, 1983 and After and March 13 - June 3, 1983).
Gordon Kahl, an anti-tax protester, Posse Comitatus member (see 1967 - 1973 and 1975 - 1981), and federal fugitive who killed two US Marshals in a February shootout in North Dakota (see February 13, 1983 and After), quickly gains national prominence as the media begins reporting on the fatal confrontation. Most media reports only identify him as a “tax protester,” failing to mention his Posse Comitatus membership and often leaving out the involvement of his son, Yorie Kahl, and two other Posse members who helped kill the marshals and wound three others. CBS news anchor Dan Rather goes farther than most of his colleagues, describing Kahl as “a radical survivalist, a fanatic, [and] an ultraright-wing tax protester” whom authorities describe as “a killer.” It does not take long for Posse Comitatus leader James Wickstrom (see 1984) to begin contacting the media himself, proudly announcing Kahl’s Posse connections and announcing: “The Posse in Wisconsin is on standby alert. All communications are locked in.” The government has, in pursuing Kahl, “declared war on the people of this country,” Wickstrom tells reporters. He adds that his organization has some three million members, though the FBI estimates its membership at closer to a few thousand; the number is hard to pin down, as many anti-tax protesters (see 1951-1967, December 9, 1968 and After, 1970-1972, 1974, 1976-1978, 1980, and Early 1980s) have at least some affiliation with the loosely organized group. As the FBI and local law enforcement officials mount a nationwide manhunt, Wickstrom, with some success, tries to turn the story away from Kahl’s murder of the two marshals and towards the story of the Posse’s anti-tax beliefs. “What we have here is a gentleman who is now being pursued in North Dakota on a setup to shut his mouth because the American people are waking up by the tens of thousands across this country, realizing that we have been duped by a private central bank,” he declares to a Milwaukee reporter. He makes an appearance on the nationally televised Phil Donahue Show, where he claims that his “heart really goes out to the US Marshals and the children of those marshals and their families.” Asked by Donahue if he would join Kahl’s wife in asking Kahl to turn himself in, Wickstrom changes the subject, arguing that Kahl’s civil rights have been violated and the real issues are farm foreclosures, corrupt courts, the income tax, the Federal Reserve, unemployment, foreign workers, and Jews. In 2002, author Daniel Levitas will write, “Phil Donahue’s dialogue with Wickstrom was oftentimes inane, and though he clearly didn’t agree with his guest, he gave Wickstrom a tremendous platform to spread his ideas.” Wickstrom will use his media appearances to mount a longshot candidacy for governor of Wisconsin. [Levitas, 2002, pp. 201-204] Four months later, Kahl will die in a bloody standoff with police officers in Arkansas (see March 13 - June 3, 1983).
Dennis Ryan, 15, helps his father torture and kill a man. Michael Ryan, a partially disabled farmer in Rulo, Nevada, has for three years followed the violent white supremacist teachings of the Posse Comitatus (see 1969) through Posse leader James Wickstrom (see 1975 - 1978), who in 1982 told him to prepare for Armageddon. After speaking to Wickstrom for the first time in Kansas, Ryan told his son to quit playing football and begin practicing with a rifle. Wickstrom adopted Ryan as something of a protege, and steered some of his supporters towards him, making him a leader in local Posse circles. In 1985, Dennis, on his father’s orders, shoots James Thimm in the face. His father had become angry with Thimm. When Thimm does not die, the elder Ryan chains him inside a hog shed, kicks and beats him, and forces him to have sex with a goat. Dennis, again complying with his father’s orders, shoots off Thimm’s fingers and partially skins him. The elder Ryan sodomizes Thimm with a shovel and finally kicks him to death. The entire procedure takes two weeks. In 2001, Dennis Ryan will tell a reporter: “I don’t hold Wickstrom responsible for the crime I committed. I hold him responsible for getting my dad into it.… Wickstrom didn’t make my dad kill anybody, but he planted the seed. He planted it in my dad and then he helped it grow.” Author Daniel Levitas will agree, telling the reporter, “There could not have been the tragedy in Rulo if there was not a James Wickstrom.” Dennis Ryan wil add: “He was looking for something to believe in. He didn’t like blacks to begin with. I don’t think he was ever a popular person growing up. I think that it was the right time for the wrong thing. He was weak and you don’t let someone indoctrinate you into something like that unless you are weak-minded. He was all screwed up.” Former Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord member Kerry Noble will say of Wickstrom: “[He] is dangerous to the extent of provoking others. He is typical of leaders. They won’t do violent stuff, yet that’s all they’ll preach. They’ll push buttons, but they are extremely cowardly.” Dennis will recall: “Jim Wickstrom was the reason Dad got into this stuff. He’s the one who showed Dad how to talk to Yahweh, the reason we started getting guns and preparing for Armageddon. He was always so amazed at all the weaponry and how well Jim Wickstrom and his followers in Tigerton Dells (see 1978 - 1983) were armed.” After moving from Whiting, Kansas, to a farm in Rulo, Ryan ordered his family to steal farm equipment, livestock, and weapons in the name of Yahweh. Dennis will recall that the crimes were based on Wickstrom’s teachings, saying: “We were supposed to kill all Satan’s people. Dad was supposed to be the King of Israel and I was the Prince. He was supposed to die before the New Jerusalem was brought down from Yahweh, and then I’d be the king. I believed it 110 percent. All the way. Hell, I helped kill a man for it, and I never once questioned it.… Wickstrom wasn’t physically a constant presence in our lives, he wasn’t over all the time at the house or always on the phone with my dad, but he was there in that he was Dad’s teacher. We had all of his fliers and cassettes. Dad would even listen to Wickstrom while he was taking the garbage out.” Dennis will say that by 1985 Ryan had become obsessed with religious fervor and his conviction that Armageddon was imminent. He became more and more violent, focusing much of his rage on Luke Stice, the five-year-old son of follower Rick Stice, whom he savagely abused until March 1985, when he broke Luke’s neck. Rick Stice helped Ryan bury his child. Dennis will serve a 12-year prison sentence for his role in the death of James Thimm. Michael Ryan will be sentenced to death. Dennis, after serving his sentence, starting a family, and becoming a carpenter, will have no further contact with his father. He has little trust in organized religion. He says: “I look at the Bible and it scares me because I know how people twist it and use it for their own benefit. I don’t want some man up there telling me what God expects of me. I was told that before, and I killed someone.… So many people interpret the Bible so many different ways. I mean, take 9/11. That’s their religious beliefs. They’re no different than what my dad did except they actually carried it out. As far as killing thousands of people—that was his goal, too.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2004]
James Wickstrom (see 1975 - 1978), the Posse Comitatus (see 1969) leader who recently spent over a year in prison for impersonating a public official (see 1983), is again sentenced to 38 months in prison for his role in a plot to print and distribute $100,000 in counterfeit bills for the 1988 Aryan Nations World Congress. The counterfeit bills were to help fund paramilitary activities. By the time Wickstrom is released in 1994, the Posse Comitatus has all but dissolved (see 1984). In 2001, author Daniel Levitas will say: “Wickstrom’s light has been fading ever since the compound at Tigerton Dells shut down (see 1983). Wickstrom’s heyday was in the period from 1978 to 1985. That was his period of peak influence. Since then he’s hopscotched around and been able to gather small groups of people around him, but he’ll never return to his former stature in the movement.” Wickstrom will continue speaking to small groups, selling his speeches through the mail and the Internet, and running an obscure weekly Internet-based radio show, which he will abandon in 2003. He will attempt to take leadership of a splinter faction of the disintegrating Aryan Nations organization (see 2003, 2004, and September 2004 and After). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2004]
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