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David Bossie. [Source: C-SPAN]David Bossie, an investigator for Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), is fired from his position. Bossie recently leaked transcripts of prison conversations featuring former Clinton administration official Webster Hubbell, who will be convicted of defrauding clients and sentenced to prison in 2004. Bossie fraudulently edited the transcripts to have Hubbell imply that First Lady Hillary Clinton broke the law while the two worked together in an Arkansas law firm. Bossie cut out portions of Hubbell’s conversations exonerating her from any wrongdoing, and sometimes rewrote Hubbell’s words entirely. In response to the controversy, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) says of Burton and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “I’m embarrassed for you, I’m embarrassed for myself, and I’m embarrassed for the [House Republican] conference at the circus that went on at your committee.” (In late April, Burton had called President Clinton a “scumbag,” further embarrassing Gingrich and the Republican leadership.) Bossie came to Burton’s staff from Citizens United (CU), which he joined in 1994 and soon rose to become director of government relations and communications. In 1988, as a member of Floyd Brown’s Presidential Victory Committee (PVC), Bossie helped produce the infamous Willie Horton ad (see September 21 - October 4, 1988). In 1992, as executive director of the PVC, Bossie oversaw the release of a fundraising letter accusing then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton of having an affair with an Arkansas woman, for use in an ad that falsely suggested it was the product of President Bush’s re-election campaign. Then-President Bush accused the PVC of engaging in “filthy campaign tactics,” and his son and campaign aide George W. Bush sent a letter asking donors not to give to the organization. Bossie has encouraged Burton to open an investigation into the suicide of Clinton administration aide Vince Foster (alleging that Foster was murdered as part of some unspecified White House plot, or perhaps an Israeli intelligence “black op”). While an aide to Senator Lauch Faircloth (R-NC), Bossie was found to have tried to intimidate a federal judge during a Whitewater-related investigation. Bossie has earned a reputation as a “Whitewater stalker,” combing Arkansas for “evidence” of crimes by the Clintons, and repeatedly making false and lurid allegations against the president and/or his wife. For a year, Bossie has promised that Burton’s committee would soon produce evidence of Chinese espionage and White House collusion, but any evidence of such a scandal has never been produced. A former lawyer for the Oversight Committee, John Rowley, has called Bossie’s actions “unrelenting self-promoti[on]” and challenged Bossie’s competence. Bossie says his transcripts were accurate (though the tapes of Hubbell’s conversations prove he is wrong), and blames committee Democrats for the controversy. [WorldNetDaily, 5/7/1998; Salon, 5/7/1998; Media Matters, 5/11/2004] WorldNetDaily reporter David Bresnahan writes that according to his sources, Bossie “was either extremely incompetent or was intentionally trying to sabotage” Burton’s investigations into the Clinton administration. Bresnahan also says that Burton allowed Bossie to resign instead of firing him, as other media sources report. [WorldNetDaily, 5/7/1998]
Entity Tags: Floyd Brown, David Bresnahan, Dan Burton, Clinton administration, Citizens United, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Webster Hubbell, Presidential Victory Committee, David Bossie, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, John Rowley, Hillary Clinton, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, Vince Foster
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, convicted of charges stemming from the ‘Unabomber’ serial bombing spree, is escorted into the courtroom to hear his sentence. [Source: Associated Press]An unrepentant Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), is sentenced to four life terms in prison with no possibility of release (see January 22, 1998). [Washington Post, 1998] Representatives of some of his victims’ families speak out during the sentencing hearing. “Lock him so far down that when he dies he will be closer to hell,” says Susan Mosser, whose husband Thomas Mosser was killed by one of Kaczynski’s bombs (see December 10, 1994). “May your own eventual death occur as you have lived, in a solitary manner, without compassion or love,” says Lois Epstein, whose husband Charles Epstein suffered a crippling injury to his hand due to another Kaczynski bomb (see June 22, 1993). In handing down his sentence, Judge Garland Burrell Jr. says, “The defendant committed unspeakable and monstrous crimes for which he shows utterly no remorse.” Kaczynski still poses a grave danger to society and would mail his bombs again if he could, Burrell says. Kaczynski delivers a statement to the court; he expresses no remorse whatsoever for his actions, and instead accuses the government of distorting the meaning of his crimes. “Two days ago, the government filed a sentencing memorandum, the purpose of which was clearly political,” containing “false statements, misleading statements,” he says. Kaczynski is referring to excerpts from his journals which prosecutors used to portray him, not as a principled citizen out to save society and the environment from the ravages of technology, but, in the words of the Washington Post, as “a petulant, almost childish murderer who killed to extract ‘personal revenge’ on people who crossed him—from women who did not respond to his overtures to campers who wandered by his Montana cabin to planes filled with ‘a lot of businesspeople.’” Kaczynski tells the court: “By discrediting me personally, they hope to discredit my political ideas.… At a later time I expect to respond at length to the sentencing memorandum. Meanwhile, I hope the public will reserve judgment against me and all the facts about the Unabomb case until another time.” After Kaczynski speaks, Susan Mosser walks to the prosecutors’ table and speaks. “Nails,” she says. “Razor blades. Wire. Pipe and batteries. The recipe for what causes pain. Hold it in your hand, as my husband Tom did, and you feel unbearable pain.” She tells how Kaczynski’s bomb, made with wires and pipes and filled with nails, tore her husband’s torso apart, spilling his entrails over the kitchen floor. Other victims tell the court that they would have supported a death sentence. Nicklaus Suino, injured by one of Kaczynski’s bombs (see November 15, 1985), says, “I wouldn’t have shed a tear if he was executed.” David Gelernter, another man crippled by one of Kaczynski’s bombs (see June 24, 1993), says he argued for a death sentence but says that Kaczynski will live on as “a symbol of cowardice.” Kaczynski’s brother David Kaczynski speaks briefly outside the courthouse, telling reporters: “There are no words to express the sorrow of today’s proceedings. To all of these people, the Kaczynski family offers its deepest apologies. We’re very, very sorry.” [Washington Post, 5/5/1998] Kaczynski will live out his sentence at the Florence, Colorado, “Supermax” federal prison, in a small cell equipped with a shower, toilet, electric lamp, concrete desk and stool, and a small television. He will have access to books from a well-stocked library, and will eat three meals a day in his cell. The Florence facility is considered the most secure prison in the nation; it is designed to house “the folks who simply cannot function in open institutions,” according to research analyst Tom Werlich. Kaczynski will not be alone at the “Supermax” facility: others such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995) are in the same facility. Like the other inmates, Kaczynski will have no contact with other inmates, and for the two hours a day he spends outside his cell, he will be constantly escorted by at least two guards. [Associated Press, 7/4/1998]
Entity Tags: Nicklaus Suino, David Kaczynski, David Gelernter, Charles Epstein, Lois Epstein, Washington Post, Thomas J. Mosser, Susan Mosser, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Tom Werlich, Garland E. Burrell Jr., Timothy James McVeigh, Ramzi Yousef
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The cover of ‘False Prophets.’ [Source: Amazon (.com)]Dale Jakes and his wife Connie Jakes release a new book, False Prophets, that details their experiences as FBI informants who infiltrated the Montana Freemen for 14 months in 1995 and early 1996 (see 1993-1994). The Jakes write that they collected enormous amounts of information for the FBI. Dale Jakes was welcomed by the Freemen because of his knowledge of explosives, and Connie Jakes became the group’s unofficial office manager. They left the group shortly before the March 1996 standoff between the Freemen and law enforcement authorities (see March 25, 1996). The two also collected information on dozens of other extremist groups that the Freemen were in contact with, including many who came to visit the Freemen and take what Dale Jakes calls “basic hate courses” in ideology and financial fraud (see September 28, 1995 and After). The Jakes say that the FBI delayed attempts to arrest the Freemen leaders to give the Jakes the chance to collect more data. A former sheriff’s deputy for the area confirms that the two did work for the FBI. Dale Jakes says that one of the more worrisome moments came when a group of Freemen assaulted an ABC News crew and chased them off the property (see October 2, 1995). “Unknown to the film crew, four high-powered rifles with scopes were trained on the driver and his passenger,” Jakes says. “In the cabin, a debate raged among the Freemen leaders as to whether or not to ‘shoot them.’” [Associated Press, 5/12/1998]
Michael Fortier, a co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, March 1993, May-September 1993, February - July 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and December 16, 1994 and After) who cooperated with authorities in testifying against bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, April 29-30, 1997, May 12-13, 1997, and November 12-13, 1997), is sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in the bomb plot, fined $200,000, and ordered to pay $4,300 in restitution. Judge G. Thomas Van Bebber’s decision seeks a middle ground between the relatives of bombing victims, who have demanded a harsh sentence for Fortier, and federal prosecutors, who recommend leniency for Fortier’s cooperation. Fortier’s lawyer Michael McGuire tells Van Bebber: “Michael Fortier did not believe Timothy McVeigh was going to carry out the bombing. For his negligence, he will always be the unforgiven man.” Fortier also receives credit for the 34 months he has already served in detention. In the sentencing hearing, Fortier apologizes to the victims for not turning in McVeigh and Nichols ahead of the bombing. “I deeply regret not taking the information I had to the police,” he says through tears. “I sometimes daydream that I did do this and became a hero, but [the] reality is that I am not.… I have paid close attention to the testimony given by the bombing survivors. The stories are so horrifying, so heartbreaking, and so full of human suffering that I cannot bear them. I am too weak to contemplate them for long. I feel as if my mind will break and I’ll cry and cry and never stop. Dear people, please, I offer my apology and I ask you to forgive me.… Please, please don’t let thoughts of me continue to hurt you.” Many survivors and victims’ relatives testify at the sentencing, telling of the grief and despair they and their families have suffered. Constance Favorite, who lost a daughter in the bombing, tells the judge: “All he needed to do was take responsibility and call. One phone call would have done it.” Marsha Kight, who also lost a daughter in the bombing, says Fortier’s sentence is too light. “Life in prison is what I would have considered enough,” she says. “I think he conspired. I think he helped buy components for the bomb. What do you call that?” Prosecutors call the sentence “appropriate” and say they are unmoved by Fortier’s declarations of remorse. “I think everyone in the courtroom had to think that it’s a little too late and a little too little,” says US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan. Van Bebber, chief judge of the US District Court for Kansas, was appointed to handle the sentencing because an appeals court ruled in 1995 that Oklahoma City federal judges had a potential conflict of interest in the case. The Oklahoma City federal courthouse sits across the street from where the Murrah building once stood, and itself was damaged by the bombing. [Washington Post, 5/28/1998; New York Times, 5/28/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] Van Bebber rejected pleas for leniency from Fortier’s lawyers, who asked that Fortier be sentenced to serve the 33 months he has already been incarcerated—essentially setting him free immediately. He followed prosecutors’ recommendations that Fortier serve between 11 and 14 years, after saying that he was considering sentencing Fortier to over 17 years in prison. [New York Times, 5/13/1998] Fortier’s lawyers say they will appeal the sentence, and accuse prosecutors of misrepresenting the amount of jail time they would seek if Fortier cooperated with the investigation and testified in the McVeigh and Nichols trials. [Indianapolis Star, 2003] Fortier will win an appeal of his sentencing; the appellate court will find that Van Bebber used sentencing guidelines that were too strict. Fortier’s jail sentence will remain the same, but his fine will be reduced to $75,000. [The Oklahoman, 4/2009] He serves his sentence in the “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczysnki, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). He will be released in January 2006, after serving 10 years and six months of his sentence. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
The jury trial of Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see March 25, 1996) and 11 other Freemen begins in the Billings, Montana, district court, amid tight security. (Three others charged in the indictment have already pled guilty.) The Freemen are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, bank and wire fraud (see May 1995), filing false IRS claims, interstate transportation of stolen property, threatening federal officials, armed robbery of news crews (see October 2, 1995 and February 8, 1996), and firearms violations (see March 14, 1996). Prosecutors give their opening arguments, and tell the jury that the case against the anti-government group centers on fraud and not politics. Lead prosecutor James Seykora says that the Freemen issued over 4,000 fraudulent checks worth a total of $18 billion; while most were rejected, the Freemen garnered $1.8 million in illicit payments from the checks. The checks—called at various times certified money orders, certified banker checks, comptroller warrants, or lien drafts—were drawn on a Norwest Bank account that never held over $116. “This is a fraud of truly epic proportions, a fraud fueled by hatred and motivated by greed,” Seykora says. “They bought some computers, they bought some fancy paper and sat down and made their own checks, their own money.” Authorities in Utah, California, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and elsewhere have uncovered similar schemes and linked the fraud rings to Schweitzer. Overall, authorities say phony money orders worth $20 million were disseminated as part of the fraud, which they liken to a variation of the Bank of Sark scam of the 1970s. Defense lawyers argue that the Freemen sincerely believed their checks had value, an argument challenged by prosecutors’ assertions that the Freemen did not themselves honor such checks if anyone tried to pay them for the seminars the Freemen provided (see September 28, 1995 and After), nor did they use them to pay telephone or electric bills. In previous Freemen trials, followers, not leaders, have appeared (see March 31, 1998); Ken Toole of the Montana Human Rights Network says: “Now, you have the real leadership on trial. These are the hard-core ideologues.” Judge John C. Coughenour presides over the trial. Two of the defendants, Schweitzer and Rodney Skurdal, have issued “arrest warrants” for Coughenour, charging him with a string of alleged crimes including “perjury, contempt of court, sedition, and treason.” Defendant Daniel Petersen has informed Coughenour that he has filed a $956 million claim against him. The defendants have largely shunned their court-appointed lawyers. Skurdal’s lawyer, Gregory Jackson, has twice asked to withdraw from the case, noting that Skurdal has sued him for libel and slander, and calls him “a servant of Satan” and “dumb, stupid, and lazy.” Today Jackson tells the court that Skurdal is “a gung-ho patriot, a gung-ho Marine.” Security at the courtroom and other federal buildings in Billings, the site of the trial, is high, with many of the security precautions adopted during the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) in place here as well. Nine of the 12 defendants have refused to come to court, and monitor the proceedings over closed-circuit television in a Yellowstone County Jail holding cell two miles away. [Washington Post, 4/1996; New York Times, 5/29/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Two of the Freemen in the holding cell even refuse to dress, and watch the proceedings in their underwear. [New York Times, 5/27/1996] One of the Freemen who pled guilty, Dana Dudley Landers, has agreed to testify against her former colleagues. She pled guilty to interstate transportation of stolen goods, mostly vehicles and office equipment purchased in North Carolina with worthless Freemen checks and brought to Montana. Prosecutors say the vehicles were to have been used by the Freemen in kidnapping public officials for “trials” before a Freemen tribunal. Another Freeman, Emmett Clark, has pled guilty to threatening to kidnap and murder a federal judge, but has not agreed to testify against his former fellows. [New York Times, 5/27/1996; Associated Press, 5/27/1998]
Garfield County, Montana, prosecutor Nick Murnion receives the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for enforcing the law despite death threats from the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994). Murnion receives the award from the Kennedy family at the JFK Library in Boston. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
Three militia members and anti-government survivalists, Alan Monty Pilon, Robert Mason, and Jason McVean, fresh from stealing a water truck, shoot and kill police officer Dale Claxton in Cortez, Colorado, and wound two others as the officers try and fail to apprehend them. The three fire more than 500 rounds from their semi-automatic weapons at the officers. They then flee into the high desert of the “Four Corners,” the no-man’s land where the boundaries of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet; Mason will later fire on two other law enforcement officials, wounding one. The bodies of Mason and Pilon will later be found, dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. McVean remains at large, though some suspect he may have died also. The three are described as “patriots” who hate the US government and believe civilization will destroy itself at the turn of the century. [New York Times, 8/3/1998; New York Times, 8/23/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Guy Lombardi, the Southeast regional director of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) and commander of the group’s militant “White Berets,” is charged with intimidating a witness in an assault case against two fellow WCOTC members (see August 1997). Lombardi will plead guilty to the charge. Shortly thereafter, WCOTC leader Matthew Hale will eject Lombardi from the group, for what he calls “insubordination”; Hale will assure other WCOTC members that Lombardi’s dismissal has nothing to do with his arrest, which Hale will call “a badge of honor.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999] In the September 1998 issue of The Struggle, Hale will write: “Lombardi was not replaced as commander of the White Berets as a form of punishment for being arrested. Not at all. Being arrested for engaging in our religious rights has never and will never be considered anything by me other than a badge of honor.” [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999]
Judge Richard P. Matsch sentences convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997) to life in prison without the possibility of parole after his jury cannot decide whether to sentence him to death (see January 7, 1998). He is also sentenced to eight concurrent six-year terms for the deaths of eight federal agents. Matsch orders Nichols to pay $14.5 million in restitution to the General Services Administration (GSA) for the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building. Nichols swears he has only $40,000 in assets; Matsch says that any future proceeds he might receive for selling his story would be given over to the government. Nichols’s defense team tried in vain to assert that Nichols was a “dupe” of fellow defendant Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and should be given a lighter sentence. Nichols, who refused to provide information about the bombing plot, gave Matsch a written apology (see March 10, 1998). Matsch says Nichols committed an act of treason that demands the most severe punishment: “The only inference that can be drawn from the evidence is that the purpose of the plan was to change the course of government through fear and intimidation.… The evidence shows to my satisfaction that the intention was to disrupt, to disorganize, to intimidate the operations of these agencies and United States government. Apparently, the intention was that the response would be fear and terror and intimidation and that these people would not be able to perform their work and that the response throughout the nation would be hysteria.… But you know, it didn’t work out that way. There was no anarchy. There was no reign of terror.… What occurred was that a community became even more united, and I think perhaps the country as well. We proceeded with the orderly processes of recovery and of restoration.… What he did was participate with others in a conspiracy that would seek to destroy all of the things that the Constitution protects. My obligation as a judge is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Terry Nichols has proven to be an enemy of the Constitution, and accordingly the sentence I am going to impose will be for the duration of his life. Anyone, no matter who that person might be or what his background might be, who participates in a crime of this magnitude has forfeited the freedoms that this government is designed to protect.” Prosecutors say they are pleased with the sentence, while Nichols’s defense lawyers continue to assert that Nichols did not intend to kill anyone in the bombing. Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, files papers calling for a new trial; Matsch says he will schedule a hearing. Marsha Kight, whose daughter Frankie Ann Merrell was killed in the bombing, says: “I’m proud of what happened in the judicial system. I felt like singing ‘God Bless America.’ He got what he deserved.” [Chicago Tribune, 6/5/1998; Washington Post, 6/5/1998; New York Times, 6/5/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Nichols will serve his term in the “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczysnki, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Nichols refused an offer of leniency in return for his cooperation in further investigation of the bombing (see April 21, 1998).
Four members of the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) are forcibly wheeled into court in wheelchairs after refusing to come to court under their own power, and are sentenced to prison for their part in the group’s standoff with the FBI (see March 25, 1996 and March 31, 1998). US District Judge John C. Coughenour sentences Steven Hance to 78 months in jail. Hance interrupts the proceedings with shouts that he is not a US citizen and not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Barry Nelson receives 71 months. John Hance receives 63 months. James Hance receives 67 months. Fellow Freeman Elwin Ward, who does not resist being brought to court, is released for time served. [Associated Press, 6/6/1998]
James Byrd Jr. [Source: EbonyInspired (.com)]James Byrd Jr., an African-American resident of Jasper, Texas, is murdered by three white men in what appears to be a racially motivated incident. Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray calls the killing “probably the most brutal I’ve ever seen” in 20 years as a prosecutor. Within hours of the attack, John William “Bill” King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Allen Berry are arrested and charged with murder and kidnapping. All three men have prison records and room together in a local apartment; King and Brewer are members of the white supremacist groups Aryan Nations and Confederate Knights of America, the latter an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan. The police find racist literature in their apartment [New York Times, 6/10/1998; CNN, 7/6/1998] , including documents written by King and Brewer indicating that they intended to start a new white supremacist group of their own. [New York Times, 2/17/1999] Local Klan organizations quickly disavow any connection to the crimes. [New York Times, 6/17/1998]
Last Ride - Byrd, walking home from a bridal shower, accepts a ride from the three; by all accounts, he does not know the men. Instead of taking Byrd home, the three drive him to a wooded area, beat him, chain him by the ankles to Berry’s truck, and drag him down a rough logging road east of Jasper. The dragging tears Byrd’s body into pieces; his severed head, neck, and right arm are discovered about a mile from where the three finally dump his mangled torso. During the trial, a doctor testifies that he believes Byrd is alive and perhaps conscious until his body strikes a culvert, where his head and arm are torn from his body. Dr. Thomas Brown tells the court, “He was alive when the head, shoulder, and right arm were separated.” The local sherriff, tipped off by an anonymous phone call, finds Byrd’s remains. A trail of blood, body parts, and personal effects stretches for two miles down the road. Berry, who cooperates with police and leads them to King and Brewer, later tells investigators that Brewer sprays Byrd’s face with black paint before he and King chain him to the back of the truck. [State of Texas, 7/1/1998; CNN, 7/6/1998; CNN, 7/8/1998; CNN, 2/22/1999] Investigators find a cigarette lighter dropped at the scene, inscribed with a Klan insignia, that belongs to King. [New York Times, 6/10/1998] Experts also tie blood on the truck, and on the three men’s clothes and shoes, to Byrd. [New York Times, 2/19/1999; New York Times, 9/24/1999] Berry’s involvement surprises many area residents, who characterize him as a petty criminal who they believed was incapable of being involved in such a brutal crime. A friend says: “I never heard Shawn say anything racist. I have a lot of black friends. He has a lot of black friends. All this news has just shocked me and everyone he knows.” Friends are less surprised at the involvement of King and Brewer, both of whom they say had their racial hatred intensified during their prison terms. “The level of racism in prison is very high,” says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The truth is, you may go in completely unracist and emerge ready to kill people who don’t look like you.” [New York Times, 6/17/1998]
Funeral Draws National Attention - Dozens of civil rights leaders and national politicians join area residents at Byrd’s funeral, and call for an end to racial hatred and intolerance (see June 13, 1998).
Father Apologizes - King’s father, Ronald L. King, also a Jasper resident, releases a letter apologizing for his son’s actions. The letter reads in part: “My sympathy goes out to the Byrd family. There is no reason for a person to take the life of another, and to take it in such a manner is beyond any kind of reasoning. It hurts me deeply to know that a boy I raised and considered to be the most loved boy I knew could find it in himself to take a life. This deed cannot be undone, but I hope we can all find it in our hearts to go forward in peace and with love for all. Let us find in our hears love for our fellow man. Hate can only destroy. Again, I want to say I’m sorry.”
Clinton: Town Must 'Join Together across Racial Lines' - President Clinton calls the murder shocking and outrageous, and says the residents of Jasper “must join together across racial lines to demonstrate that an act of evil like this is not what this country is all about.… I think we’ve all been touched by it, and I can only imagine that virtually everyone who lives there is in agony at this moment.” [New York Times, 6/11/1998]
Indications of Klan Activity in Area - The mayor of Jasper, R. C. Horn, an African-American, says that the city is relatively peaceful from a racial aspect, and says the city “has a strong bind together, both black and white.” But Gary Bledsoe of the Texas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) says the area of east Texas that contains Jasper has been a center of Klan activity for years. Bledsoe points to serious problems in the nearby town of Vidor, for years a de facto “white town,” that centered around integrating a housing project. Lou Ann Reed, a local cashier, says she deplores the killing: “I don’t think anybody should be treated that way, I don’t care what color they are. Not even an animal.” Reed, who is white, refuses to answer when asked if she has heard that some white residents might have sympathies with white supremacist groups; when asked if the killing surprised her, she says, “Nothing surprises me anymore.” Black residents tell reporters that harassment and physical abuse from whites is not uncommon, and there are areas in and around town they have learned not to frequent for fear of being attacked. [New York Times, 6/10/1998; New York Times, 6/11/1998] A New York Times editorial calls the murder a “lynching by pickup truck.” [New York Times, 6/14/1998] Both local Klan organizations and black militant organizations march in Jasper shortly after Byrd’s murder (see June 27, 1998).
Hate Crime - Texas authorities charge King, Brewer, and Berry with a variety of felonies, including murder and kidnapping; the addition of hate crime charges makes them eligible for the death penalty. During their trials, both Brewer and King are depicted as unrepentant white racists. King’s former supervisor, roofing contractor Dennis Symmack, says that though a quiet man, King harbors strongly racist views. “Bill was a quiet man, not a talker,” Symmack testifies, and recalls King expressing “an intense dislike of blacks.” Symmack says that according to King, “[B]lacks are different from whites and are taking over everything—taking over welfare.” Tattoo artist Johnny Mosley, a former inmate who served time with King, says that King asked for an array of racist tattoos—including one depicting the lynching of a black man and another reading “Aryan Pride”—in large part to intimidate other inmates and to avoid being sexually assaulted. [CNN, 7/6/1998; New York Times, 7/7/1998; New York Times, 2/19/1999; CNN, 2/22/1999; New York Times, 2/24/1999] During the trial, King claims that the crime was not racially motivated, but was impelled by Berry’s desire to buy drugs from Byrd; additionally, he claims that Berry’s abuse of steroids prompted the brutalization of their victim, and that he himself had nothing to do with assaulting Byrd. Authorities find King’s claims entirely baseless [New York Times, 11/12/1998] ; instead, prosecutors tell the court that King wanted to start his own white supremacist group, and targeted Byrd as a way to shine attention on himself and gain members. [New York Times, 2/17/1999; CNN, 2/22/1999] During his trial, Brewer attempts to blame Berry for the actual murder, an argument that the jury disregards in favor of a letter written by Brewer bragging about his role in the murder and saying: “Well, I did it. And no longer am I a virgin. It was a rush, and I’m still licking my lips for more.” [New York Times, 9/24/1999] All three are found guilty; King and Brewer are sentenced to death, and Berry receives life in prison with no chance of parole until 2039. Both King and Brewer later write racist graffiti on the walls of their jail cells. In a jailhouse letter to Brewer, King will write of his pride in the crime, and accepts the fact that he may die for it. “Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history,” King says in the letter intercepted by jail officials. “Death before dishonor. Sieg Heil!” [New York Times, 11/18/1998; New York Times, 2/17/1999; New York Times, 2/19/1999; New York Times, 2/24/1999; New York Times, 9/24/1999] During the closing arguments of King’s trial, Gray discusses the concept of violent racism: “It’s something that’s a virus. It’s something that’s dangerous. It’s something that spreads from one person to another.” [New York Times, 2/24/1999]
Murders Sparks Hate-Crime Legislation - The murder of Byrd and a subsequent murder of a gay Colorado student, Matthew Shepard (see October 9, 1998 and After), will be a catalyst for the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (see October 28, 2009).
Entity Tags: Thomas Brown, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Shawn Allen Berry, James Byrd, Jr, Confederate Knights of America, Gary Bledsoe, Dennis Symmack, Ronald L. King, Aryan Nations, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, James Gray, Ku Klux Klan, Lawrence Russell Brewer, Lou Ann Reed, Mark Potok, John William (“Bill”) King, R.C. Horn
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Civil rights leaders, politicians, and local residents gather in Jasper, Texas, to mourn the violent death of James Byrd Jr., an African-American brutally murdered by white supremacists (see June 7, 1998 and After). Byrd’s funeral service is held in the Greater New Bethel Baptist Church, where Byrd’s father is a deacon and his mother a Sunday School teacher. Two hundred guests fill the sanctuary while another 600 participate outside the building. One speaker after another says that Byrd’s death should bring whites and blacks together in outrage and determination to end racial violence. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, a national civil rights leader, refers to his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in saying: “Dr. King would say that unearned suffering is redemptive, that there’s power in the blood of the innocent. Brother Byrd’s innocent blood alone could very well be the blood that changes the course of our country, because no one has captured the nation’s attention like this tragedy.” Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater is one of several speakers that acknowledge the family’s wish for a small, private funeral ceremony. Speaking to Byrd’s sister Clara Taylor from the podium, Slater says: “We know, Clara, that you wanted to be left alone. But we can’t. We have to be with you. We have to be with this family and we have to be here in Jasper. Because we can ill afford to have what has happened here happen any place else across this land.” Other speakers include civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), and Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA). The Byrd family banned reporters and photographers from the service. A small number of the area’s white residents take part in the service; many area residents, both black and white, wear yellow ribbons honoring Byrd’s memory, and some area stores and buildings fly their flags at half mast. A small number of African-American men from the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panthers conduct a march from the sheriff’s office into Byrd’s neighborhood, wearing paramilitary garb, carrying shotguns and rifles, and advising black residents to arm themselves; according to news reports, the marchers are generally ignored. [New York Times, 6/13/1998]
Entity Tags: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Clara Taylor, James Byrd, Jr, Maxine Waters, New Black Panthers, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rodney Slater, Greater New Bethel Baptist Church, Nation of Islam
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Local Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and New Black Panthers—militant groups that many feel are polar opposites of one another—march in the small town of Jasper, Texas, in response to the recent brutal murder of African-American resident James Byrd by self-avowed white supremacists (see June 7, 1998 and After). Authorities fear the two groups will engage in a physical altercation, but they exchange nothing more than intemperate and sometimes profane rhetoric. Residents did not want either group to march, but their wishes were not heeded; both President Clinton and Governor George W. Bush had asked that the groups refrain from marching, but their wishes, too, were ignored by both groups. Jasper resident Joyce Edmond, an African-American, says, “It’s wrong for either of them to be here.” She echoes the sentiments of many residents by saying that both groups are using Byrd’s murder to gain attention for themselves. Local government official Walter Diggles, an African-American, says of the groups’ rival marches: “It’s the outside coming in and disrupting a community that has been dealing very conscientiously with this situation. It’s a distraction.” The KKK members, mostly from neighboring Vidor and Waco, and the New Black Panthers and Black Muslims, from Dallas and Houston respectively, are surrounded by state troopers wearing face shields and bulletproof vests. Both sides give fiery speeches laced with racial slurs and conspiracy theories. Both sides brought large amounts of weapons, but were prohibited by police from carrying them. One white and one black militant are arrested for disorderly conduct. Several times, the crowd of onlookers laughs derisively at the militants. In a statement, Byrd’s family says: “Let this horrendous violation of the sanctity of life not be a spark that ignites more hatred and retribution. Rather, let this be a wake-up call for America, for all Americans. Let it spark a cleansing fire of self-examination and reflection.” Klan members insist that the march is to distance the organization from Byrd’s murder, and both sides claim they have come to Jasper to protect the community from the other side. [New York Times, 6/27/1998; New York Times, 6/28/1998]
Accused bomber Eric Rudolph (see July 27, 1996 and After, January 16, 1997, February 21, 1997, and January 29, 1998), currently hiding from the FBI in the mountainous woods of western North Carolina, stakes out his old friend George Nordman, who runs a health food store in Andrews, North Carolina. After days or perhaps weeks of surveillance, Rudolph appears at Nordman’s house, loads 200 pounds of food, health food supplements, and other items on a truck, and leaves. Several days later, Nordman alerts law enforcement officials to the visit and tells them Rudolph forced him to cooperate; this is the FBI’s first real clue to Rudolph’s location. Nordman passes a lie detector test and is not charged with being an accomplice. The FBI finds the abandoned truck where Rudolph has rolled it off the road. The FBI combs the Nantahala National Forest looking for Rudolph, without success. Three years will pass before the FBI gains any further information as to Rudolph’s condition or whereabouts, even after offering a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture. In 2002, Rudolph’s former sister-in-law, Deborah Rudolph, tells CNN that she does not believe Rudolph will allow himself to be taken alive. Instead, she will say that Rudolph will likely take a cue from a man he admires, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. She will say: “Hitler committed suicide. I think Eric would be more apt to react that way than let himself be taken alive.” [CNN, 6/15/2002] Rudolph will be captured in May 2003 (see May 31, 2003).
The New York Times reports on previously undisclosed letters written by convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), as well as similarly undisclosed suspicions among McVeigh’s family members that he carried out the bombing—suspicions that they later shared with FBI investigators. According to the letters, all written to his younger sister and confidant Jennifer McVeigh, McVeigh was despondent over not being able to confide the extent of his anti-government activities to his family, even Jennifer, and at at least one point contemplated suicide. The Times obtained copies of the letters and summaries of the interviews, which were not presented at McVeigh’s trial last year.
Letters - An October 1993 letter to Jennifer (see October 20, 1993) expresses his distress over not being able to fully discuss his anti-government feelings and “lawless behavior,” and alleges that he left Special Forces training, not because he could not meet the physical requirements (see January - March 1991 and After), but because he learned that if he became a Green Beret, he could be required to take part in government-sanctioned assassinations and drug trafficking. A Christmas 1993 letter to Jennifer hints that he might be involved in bank robberies and/or other illegal activities (see December 24, 1993). And another letter, written four months before the bombing, warns her that he may “disappear” or go “underground” (see January 1995).
Family Suspicions - Jennifer told FBI investigators (see April 21-23, 1995) that she had an “eerie feeling” her brother was involved with the bombing. His father, William McVeigh, told investigators he was worried that McVeigh would do something to get in trouble; he also told investigators that his mother, Mildred Frazer, thought her son “did the bombing.” William McVeigh was not convinced of the government’s theory that his son’s anger over the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) was the trigger that set him on a path of destruction, a stance other family members emulated. William McVeigh told investigators that his son’s real problems may have begun over money, starting with the Army’s demand that he repay an “overpayment” (see March 1992 - February 1993), a demand that infuriated McVeigh. William McVeigh acknowledged that his son was obsessed with the deaths of the Branch Davidians, and told investigators that he and his son were at “opposite ends politically.” He said his son was bright but never really succeeded in life because he did not handle pressure well, did not take orders well, and had trouble handling the responsibilities of day-to-day work. But Jennifer thought that her brother’s breaking point came earlier, when he withdrew as a candidate for the Army’s Special Forces, as he wrote to her in an October 1993 letter (see October 20, 1993).
Undisclosed Evidence Suggesting Militia Ties - The Times also reports on previously undisclosed witness statements that indicate Timothy McVeigh may have had militia ties, something long suspected (see November 1992, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, September 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, March 1994, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, and December 1994), but never made a large factor in McVeigh’s trial. One witness, a corrections officer who worked as a security guard in Kingman, Arizona, around the time McVeigh worked as a guard (see May-September 1993), told FBI investigators that he and his father once saw McVeigh with 10 or 15 other people dressed in camouflage in the desert north of Kingman in the fall of 1994. The group had firearms spread over the hood of an old yellow or tan station wagon, he said. The officer also said that he saw McVeigh’s friends Michael and Lori Fortier, whom he knew from high school, arrive—presumably at the desert meeting—in a small blue pickup truck with a white camper shell, a description that fits the truck owned at the time by McVeigh’s accomplice Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). The Fortiers have testified that Nichols came to their Kingman home in his blue pickup in October 1994, shortly after McVeigh had them rent a storage locker for him in which he stored stolen detonators and other explosives (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). [New York Times, 7/1/1998]
Three Aryan Nations security guards (see Early 1970s) assault a mother and her child, leading to civil charges. Victoria Keenan and her son Jason stop briefly in front of the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Falls, Idaho, to retrieve something that has fallen from their car. The car either backfires or someone sets off a firecracker; whatever the source of the sound, the guards believe the compound is under fire from the car. They pursue it in a pickup truck, firing repeatedly at the vehicle before shooting out a tire and forcing it into a ditch. The guards assault both mother and son before releasing them. In response, Keenan and her son retain attorneys, including a team from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), to sue Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler and the three guards. During the trial, Butler tells the jury, “The white race is the most endangered species on the face of the earth.” Two years later, a jury assesses a $6.3 million judgment against the defendants. $6 million of the judgment is in punitive damages. Butler himself is responsible for $4.8 million because he had hired ex-convicts as security guards, given them no training or formal policies to follow, armed them with illegal assault weapons, and indoctrinated them in racist, hate-filled ideology. The Keenans’ lawyers successfully argue that the actions of his guards were a foreseeable result of his negligent and reckless supervision. The courtroom defeat ultimately forces Butler to relinquish the Idaho compound in a bankruptcy auction. The new owners demolish the buildings. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
Republic of Texas logo. [Source: Republic of Texas]Three members of the separatist Republic of Texas (RoT) are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in a plot to assassinate President Clinton and other federal officials. The plot consists of an anthrax-like toxin to be delivered via a cactus thorn fired from a modified butane lighter. One man, Oliver Dan Emigh, is later acquitted. The other two, white separatists Jack Abbot Grebe Jr. and Johnnie Wise, will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The RoT considers itself the sovereign governing body of Texas, under what it calls “common law” similar to beliefs espoused by the Montana Freemen (see 1983-1995 and Fall 2010). In 1996, the RoT split into three factions, led by different members. The faction led by Jesse Enloe harbors Grebe, Wise, and Emigh. Computer consultant John L. Cain was approached by Grebe and Wise for help in sending “untraceable” email messages to government officials. Cain informed the FBI, worked with Grebe and Wise, and provided the evidence that led to their arrests. Though some RoT members will express their anger and opposition to their fellow group members’ criminal activities, Grebe and Wise will be listed as “prisoners of war” on the RoT Web site. After Grebe and Wise’s convictions, RoT will become a less extremist organization, and after the 9/11 attacks, some members will say they stand ready to help the government stand off terrorist attacks. RoT members will turn their attention to patrolling the Texas-Mexican border, sometimes forcibly deporting illegal immigrants. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2010]
A jury convicts Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) leader LeRoy M. Schweitzer (see 1983-1995) and three of his fellows, Dale Jacobi, Daniel E. Petersen Jr., and Russell D. Landers, for conspiracy and bank fraud (see May 27, 1998 and After). Schweitzer is found guilty on 21 of 30 counts, most involving fake checks and money orders issued by the group. Schweitzer, Petersen, Richard Clark, and Rodney Skurdal are found guilty of two counts of threatening to kill Judge Jack Shanstrom. The defense argued that the Freemen sincerely believed that they were doing what was necessary; defense attorney Anthony Gallagher said during the trial, “These were folks that legitimately believed that their government was no longer their government.” After several days of jury deliberations, District Judge John C. Coughenour declares a mistrial on 63 unresolved counts of the 126 total charges; one of those charges is that all the defendants engaged in an enormous fraud scheme. [Reuters, 7/3/1998; Associated Press, 7/3/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
South Carolina militia member Paul T. Chastain is charged with weapons, explosives, and drug violations after he allegedly tries to trade drugs for a machine gun and enough C-4 plastic explosive to demolish a five-room house. Chastain, who has written of the need to counter what he calls government tyranny with “brute force,” swapped 300 tablets of Dilaudid to undercover police officers. South Carolina law enforcement official Robert Stewart later says: “I think it is safe to say Paul T. Chastain was not planning to go duck-hunting with C-4 explosives and an M-16 rifle.… I truly believe lives were saved by this arrest.” Chastain is a member of a newly formed militia, the “South Carolina Minutemen Corps.” Officials say the militia group operates out of a dilapidated former boating and fishing campground named Sky Ranch. The next year, Chastain will plead guilty to an array of charges, including threatening to kill Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh, and be sentenced to 15 years in prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
William Pierce, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the author of the inflammatory and highly influential white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), says on the Alliance’s weekly radio broadcast American Dissident Voices (ADV): “We are letting the Mexicans and blacks wreck our country today not because the blacks or the Mexicans are able to brainwash us but because the Jews are. Mexicans are not a menace to us because they breed fast and carry switchblades. Blacks are not a menace because there are a lot of them and they have a tendency toward violence. We know how to deal with people who breed fast and carry switchblades. We know how to deal with violent blacks, no matter how many of them there are. Cleaning up America might be a bit messy, but there’s absolutely no question about our ability to do it, if we had the will to do it.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ]
James ‘Bo’ Gritz. [Source: Hyde Park Media]Militia leader and former Green Beret James “Bo” Gritz arrives in Andrews, North Carolina, from his camp in Idaho. Gritz, now a right-wing talk show host and vehement anti-abortion advocate, says that he and his fellow militia members have been asked by the FBI to help find fugitive Eric Rudolph, who is in hiding from the FBI (see July 1998) after bombing abortion clinics, a gay and lesbian nightclub, and the 1996 Olympics (see January 29, 1998 and October 14, 1998), and persuade him to surrender; Gritz tells reporters that the alternative for Rudolph is a “bullet in the neck” from the FBI or police officers. Gritz says he believes Rudolph may have a shortwave radio and is listening to his broadcasts. Gritz is a leader in the Christian Patriot movement and was the 1992 presidential candidate of the far-right Populist Party. In 1992, he helped the FBI negotiate an end to the armed standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Gritz and some 100 fellow militia members and area volunteers spend a week in Andrews. The plan, according to author Maryanne Vollyers, is for Gritz to solicit the help of Rudolph’s mother Patricia, persuade Rudolph to come out of hiding, and protect him with lawyers and bodyguards through his legal processing. In return, Gritz will claim the $1 million reward being offered for Rudolph’s capture by the FBI. However, Patricia Rudolph refuses to cooperate with Gritz. A week after their arrival, Gritz and his followers give up trying to find Rudolph. [CNN, 7/31/1998; CNN, 5/31/2003; Vollyers, 2006, pp. 166-167] Later, Gritz will tell Vollyers that his purpose in trying to find Rudolph was to turn him into a “Christian Patriot icon,” whom he could use to advocate against abortion and homosexuality. Gritz views Rudolph as a potential “champion” for their shared right-wing views. Gritz will say that he believes Rudolph could win an acquittal through “jury nullification,” and will tell Vollyers: “I thought, boy, what an impact if a jury was to turn Eric Rudolph loose. Every abortion doctor in this country would have to grab his anus and head for wherever he could hide.” [Vollyers, 2006, pp. 166-167]
The FBI gives a $1 million reward to David Kaczynski, who identified his brother Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski as the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). The FBI spent nearly 20 years in an ever-increasing and fruitless manhunt to catch the serial bomber. David Kaczynski works as a youth shelter social worker in Schenectady, New York. He has expressed his ambivalence over turning his brother over to the FBI. Kaczynski has said that if he receives the reward money, he will donate most of it to the families of his brother’s victims. The Kaczynski family feels that giving most of the money to the victims “might help us resolve our grief over what happened,” he says. Kaczynski family attorney Anthony Bisceglie says now that Kaczynski has actually received the money, “[t]hat certainly still is his intent.” Kaczynski notes that he has to use some of the money to pay off the family’s legal bills resulting from the Unabomber case. FBI spokesman John Russell says that the $1 million reward is one of the biggest rewards ever paid in a domestic terrorism case. Kaczynski says that while he does not claim the mantle of “hero” that lead prosecutor Robert J. Cleary labeled him, he believes that his choice to turn in his brother may have spared the lives of more innocent people. Kaczynski pressed federal prosecutors to consider his brother as not just guilty of heinous crimes, but deeply mentally ill (Ted Kaczynski has been diagnosed as suffering from acute paranoid schizophrenia). It is in part because of the diagnosis, and because of pressure from David Kaczynski, that the government ultimately chose not to seek the death penalty against his brother (see May 4, 1998). Until the government reversed itself and chose not to seek the death penalty, David Kaczynski was bitterly angry at the government and accused Justice Department officials of wanting to “kill my brother at any cost” (see December 30, 1997). Kaczynski and his mother, Wanda Kaczynski, also criticized the FBI and Unabom Task Force prosecutors for misleading them during the negotiations that led up to their identification of Theodore Kaczynski by suggesting they were interested in obtaining psychiatric help for him and not in pressing for capital punishment. During the entire trial, though David Kaczynski sat just 10 feet behind his brother in the courtroom, Ted Kaczynski never once acknowledged his brother’s presence or looked at him. [Washington Post, 8/21/1998]
Indiana University (IU) sophomore Benjamin “August” Smith gives a fiery interview to a student reporter that details his hatred of African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, homosexuals, and even many Christians. Smith describes himself as a member of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), a self-described “race religion” that espouses racism and totalitarianism. [Bloomington Independent, 8/27/1998] (Smith is the group’s “Creator of the Year” for 1998.) [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The church has approximately three members in the Bloomington, Indiana, area. Smith explains his hatred: “White people are best and they deserve the best. We don’t believe all races are equal. We see all inferior races breeding and the number of whites is shrinking. The mud people (see 1960s and After) will turn this world into a cesspool.” Until IU officials stopped him, Smith would paper the campus with fliers three or four times a week, earning him the sobriquet “the flier guy.” A typical flier reads: “If we do nothing, we will condemn our children to live in an Alien Nation where there is no place to escape these non-White invaders. There is nothing wrong with wanting America to remain a racially and culturally European nation.” In the interview, Smith says, “We want to show people that liberals like [President] Clinton are destroying the racial basis of this country.” Smith is as blunt about his church’s position on democracy, saying: “We’re not a big fan of democracy. We believe in totalitarianism.” If the church succeeds in achieving its goals, it will, Smith says, divide the US into portions, retaining much of it for its members. “We want the Midwest. It has the most fertile land and is the best basis for a new nation,” Smith says. Minorities will not be welcome. “Send the blacks back to Africa, the Asians back to Asia,” Smith says. “They probably won’t be very happy about it but they’ll probably end up wanting to leave.” Smith says mainstream Christianity is a huge impediment to his church’s aims. “It’s not blacks and Jews, but Christianity is our biggest obstacle. It caters to the weakness of man and humble him.” The church has its own Bible, Nature’s Eternal Religion. Smith became a white supremacist after entering college. “I looked through Aryan stuff and realized historically nations function best when there’s one race. Otherwise it’s a power struggle,” he recalls. “I saw the influx of taxpayers paying for minorities. This country was founded for and by whites and that’s when I decided I had to become an activist.” Smith has lost most of his old friends, and now calls them “race traitors and non-believers,” and though he still speaks to his parents, the relationship is strained. Through its Web site, the church claims it can come to power legally and non-violently, but, the site says, if the government tries “to restrict our legal means then we have no recourse but to resort to terrorism and violence.” Smith claims he has received death threats over his activism, but says he intends to increase his recruitment efforts in and around Bloomington and nearby Indianapolis. “Indy’s a big target for us,” he explains. “There are a lot more open minds. This community is la-la land.” [Bloomington Independent, 8/27/1998] Less than a year after the interview, Smith will go on a killing rampage throughout central Indiana before killing himself (see July 2-4, 1999).
Graham Hall’s back, branded with the letters ALF. [Source: The Mail on Sunday]British reporter Graham Hall, who in 1998 infiltrated a British cell of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) with a hidden camera and captured footage of ALF’s British spokesman Robin Webb giving a bomb-making manual to activists and suggesting a target, is abducted, apparently by ALF members. They blindfold Hall and threaten to kill him, then brand the letters ALF on his back before throwing him out of a van onto a deserted road. Hall produced a documentary, Inside the ALF, that portrayed the organization as violent and extremist. Webb says the documentary was heavily and selectively edited, and says of the branding, “People who make a living in this way have to expect from time to time to take the consequences of their actions.” The British television network that aired the documentary, Channel 4, has offered to pay for plastic surgery for Hall, who considers himself an animal rights supporter but finds ALF’s tactics too extreme. Police refuse to prosecute Webb and other ALF members, who in Hall’s film boast of numerous bombings and arson attacks. Hall says of the ALF members he encountered: “Even I underestimated them. They are highly organized and totally obsessed—they’ll stop at nothing. That conflict is now out of hand and ready to explode.… I have been badly shaken by this but it will not deter me from carrying on. I will not rest until I bring these men to justice… and it won’t be the sort of justice they deal in. They are terrorists, not animal rights campaigners. They can’t function without violence. They have done this to me because I hurt them with my film. They wanted to get back at me, pure and simple.… One day I will infiltrate the ALF again. And next time they won’t get away with it.” [The Mail on Sunday, 11/7/1999; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
The murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard (see October 9, 1998 and After) triggers a national discussion about hate crimes, centering on the question of whether Shepard’s murder should be classified as such. Shortly after Shepard’s murder, his friends Walt Boulden and Alex Trout tell reporters that Shepard may have been killed because of his homosexuality. “I know in the core of my heart it happened because he revealed he was gay,” Boulden tells a reporter. “And it’s chilling. They targeted him because he was gay.” Boulden and Trout also speak with county law enforcement officials. Kristen Price, the girlfriend of one of Shepard’s assailants, Aaron McKinney, cooperates with police after being charged with being an accessory to the murder (the charges are later reduced); she tells them that McKinney reacted violently to Shepard’s alleged advances. Later, Price will recant that part of her story and say that McKinney’s motive was to rob Shepard. In 2004 she will say: “I don’t think it was a hate crime at all. I never did.” Former Laramie police detective Ben Fritzen will agree, saying: “Matthew Shepard’s sexual preference or sexual orientation certainly wasn’t the motive in the homicide.… If it wasn’t Shepard, they would have found another easy target. What it came down to really is drugs and money and two punks that were out looking for it.” McKinney will tell an ABC News reporter: “I would say it wasn’t a hate crime. All I wanted to do was beat him up and rob him.” He will explain the excessively savage beating he delivered to Shepard as triggered by his methamphetamine abuse. Others disagree. In 1999, Sergeant Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case, will scoff at the idea that gay hatred had nothing to do with the crime. “Far from that!” he will say. “They knew damn well he was gay.… It started out as a robbery and burglary, and I sincerely believe the other activity was because he was gay.” Former Laramie police commander Dave O’Malley doesn’t think drug use motivated the attack, either. “I really don’t think [McKinney] was in a methamphetamine-induced rage when this happened,” he will say. “I don’t buy it at all. I feel comfortable in my own heart that they did what they did to Matt because they [had] hatred toward him for being gay.” Shepard’s mother Judy Shepard will agree, saying: “I’m just not buying into that. There were a lot of things going on that night, and hate was one of them, and they murdered my son ultimately. Anything else we find out just doesn’t, just doesn’t change that fact.” McKinney will deny knowing Shepard before the murder, but some townspeople say they saw Shepard and McKinney together in the weeks before the murder, presumably seeing Shepard buying meth from McKinney. [ABC News, 11/26/2004]
'Gay Panic Defense' - McKinney’s legal strategy is to use the so-called “gay panic defense,” where assailants justify their actions by claiming they were driven temporarily insane because of their victim’s homosexuality. McKinney’s lawyer Dion Custis will go even farther, claiming that Shepard made a physical advance towards McKinney. “It started because Matthew Shepard grabbed [McKinney’s] balls,” Custis will tell the jury. “It continued because Aaron McKinney was a chronic meth user.” However, McKinney’s fellow assailant Russell Henderson will later admit that Shepard never made any advances towards either of his killers. Henderson will not testify against McKinney, as is arranged, so Custis is free to make the argument to the jury. [Salon, 11/6/1999] Of Henderson, his landlord says: “I perceived him as a follower. I have a hard time imagining him coming up with anything like this on his own. It seems extremely out of character, but sometimes people make really bad choices.” [New York Times, 10/16/1998]
Search for Justification - Experts say that the details of the incident fit a larger pattern of anti-gay crimes. Karen Franklin, a forensic psychologist, observes: “Once someone is labeled as homosexual, any glance or conversation by that person is perceived as sexual flirtation. Flirtation, in turn, is viewed as a legitimate reason to assault.” Men like McKinney and Henderson justify their violent assaults on gay men, Franklin notes, by using excuses such as “self-defense” from homosexual overtures, ideological opposition to homosexuality, thrill seeking, and peer approval. [New York Times, 10/16/1998]
Presidential Response - President Clinton condemns the killing, saying that “crimes of hate and crimes of violence cannot be tolerated in our country.” Clinton presses Congress to expand the federal hate-crimes law to cover offenses based on disability or sexual orientation. “The public outrage in Laramie and all across America today echoes what we heard at the White House Conference on Hate Crimes last year,” Clinton says. “There is something we can do about this. Congress needs to pass our tough hate crimes legislation. It can do so even before it adjourns, and it should do so.” Governor Jim Geringer (R-WY) demurs when asked if Wyoming should pass similar legislation, saying that he is against giving one group “special rights” over others. [CNN, 10/12/1998] Several gay entertainment figures openly declare the murder to be a hate crime. Actress and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who hosts Shepard’s memorial service in Washington, DC, tells the gathered mourners that she publicly announced her sexual orientation in part “to keep this type of thing from happening.” Gay singer Melissa Etheridge will write a song, “Scarecrow,” as a tribute to Shepard (the title comes from Shepard’s initially being mistaken for a scarecrow when he was found). [Hall and Hall, 2006, pp. 575]
Entity Tags: Karen Franklin, Dion Custis, Dave O’Malley, Ben Fritzen, Alex Trout, Aaron McKinney, Ellen DeGeneres, Judy Shepard, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Melissa Etheridge, Jim Geringer, Rob DeBree, Walt Boulden, Russell Henderson, Kristen Price, Matthew Shepard
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Matthew Shepard. [Source: BilEric Project]Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, is murdered on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. Shepard, who is openly gay, is found brutally beaten, burned, and tied to a fence, where he hung, comatose, for some 18 hours before being found. He is rushed to a local hospital, but dies five days later. Local residents Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson are quickly charged with Shepard’s death. Because of the extreme brutalization they inflicted on Shepard, prosecutors chararcterize the murder as a hate crime: according to the charges, the two killed Shepard because of their hatred of homosexuals. [New York Times, 10/10/1998; ABC News, 11/26/2004] The girlfriends of the two accused murderers are also arrested and charged as accomplices after the fact, but the charges are mitigated after they cooperate with the investigation. [New York Times, 10/10/1998] Investigators quickly learn that Shepard had been beaten twice in recent months by other Laramie residents who, he said, attacked him because of his homosexuality. [CNN, 10/12/1998] “He was very open about his sexuality,” says a friend, anthropology student Tina LaBrie. “I admired him for that because it is very courageous to be yourself even when others disagree.” [New York Times, 10/10/1998]
Fatal Truck Ride - Henderson and McKinney approach Shepard at a bar with the intention of robbing him. According to the two, Shepard, unaware of their plans, tells them he is too drunk to drive and asks for a ride. In some versions of the events, McKinney and Henderson represent themselves as gay in order to entice Shepard into the truck. The three climb into McKinney’s pickup; Henderson drives. McKinney will claim that at some point during the ride Shepard places his hand on McKinney’s leg. It is then that McKinney strikes Shepard with a .357 Magnum pistol. However, McKinney later says, “I was getting ready to pull it on him anyway.” (In 1999, Henderson will admit that McKinney lied about the sexual advance from Shepard, and say that Shepard never touched either man. And tapes of McKinney’s post-arrest confession bear out Henderson’s denial.) McKinney tells Shepard: “Guess what? I’m not gay—and you just got jacked.” McKinney forces Shepard to give him his wallet, which only has $30 in it. McKinney continues pistol-whipping Shepard; prosecutors will say that McKinney continues beating Shepard because of his hatred for gays, but McKinney will later claim he loses control of himself because he is high on methamphetamine, saying: “Sometimes when you have that kind of rage going through you, there’s no stopping it. I’ve attacked my best friends coming off of meth binges.” McKinney and Henderson drive to a secluded spot outside Laramie where they can dump Shepard and flee. They stop at a wooden fence, where Henderson ties Shepard to the fence with a length of rope while McKinney continues to beat Shepard. Henderson later claims McKinney strikes him in the face when he tries to stop McKinney from continuing to assault Shepard. After tying Shepard to the fence, Henderson returns to the truck, leaving McKinney alone with Shepard. McKinney later says he believes it is his final blows to Shepard that ultimately kill him. [New York Times, 10/18/1998; Salon, 11/6/1999; ABC News, 11/26/2004] Sergeant Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case, will later say, “That is one thousand percent torture, what occurred to that boy.” [Salon, 11/6/1999]
Altercation in Parking Lot Alerts Police to Murder - McKinney takes Shepard’s wallet and shoes, gets back in the truck, and tells Henderson to return to Laramie. McKinney later says his intention was to burglarize Shepard’s apartment. However, McKinney and Henderson meet up with two other young men whom police say are vandalizing cars; McKinney attacks the two men, attracting police attention. Police Sergeant Flint Waters runs down Henderson; after apprehending him, he sees several incriminating items in the bed of Henderson’s truck, including a bloodied large-frame revolver, a coat, a shoe, and a length of rope. Waters later says, “Seeing that the gun covered in blood, I assumed that there was a lot more going on than what we’d stumbled onto so far.” [ABC News, 11/26/2004] The two assailants’ girlfriends attempt to cover for them, inventing an alibi for them and throwing Henderson’s bloodied clothing into a trash bin. McKinney’s girlfriend, Kristen Price, says of Henderson after the murder: “He was crying, and he kept throwing up. He just came in and hugged me, and said, ‘I’ve done something horrible. I deserve to die.’” [New York Times, 10/16/1998]
Discovery - Aaron Kreifels, a fellow University of Wyoming student, finds Shepard by chance after struggling to get his mountain bike through the sandy, rugged terrain. He later tells a Denver Post reporter: “I got up and noticed something out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was a scarecrow, so I didn’t think much of it. Then I went around and noticed it was a real person. I checked to see if he was conscious or not, and when I found out he wasn’t, I ran and got help as fast as I could.” Kreifels reaches a house in the nearby Sherman Hills subdivision and calls police. As to Shepard’s condition, he will say, “I don’t really want to go into details about that.” Of the two assailants, Kreifels will say: “I can’t even grasp what these people were thinking, how they could do such a thing. There’s no excuse for it. Whatever their excuse is, it’s meaningless, because there’s just no excuse for taking another’s life.” [Denver Post, 10/15/1988] McKinney’s girlfriend briefly attempts to blame Shepard for the attack, claiming Shepard had made a pass at her boyfriend in recent days, and embarrassed him in front of his friends. [New York Times, 10/12/1998]
Father of Assailant: Gay Victim Caused Increased Media Coverage - The father of one of the assailants, Bill McKinney, condemns the attack, but also complains about the attention Shepard’s murder receives in the media. The national press “blew it totally out of proportion because it involved a homosexual,” McKinney tells a Denver reporter. “Had this been a heterosexual these two boys decided to take out and rob, this never would have made the national news.” [New York Times, 10/12/1998]
Funeral - Anti-gay protesters will picket Shepard’s funeral, displaying signs such as “God Hates Fags” and “Matt Shepard Rots in Hell” (see October 14, 1998).
Hate Crime - The question of whether Shepard’s murder qualifies as a “hate crime” is hotly debated in the weeks following the murder (see October 9, 1998 and After).
Multiple Life Sentences - McKinney and Henderson are found guilty of murder, kidnapping, and, in McKinney’s case, aggravated robbery. They accept double life sentences, in a plea deal agreed to by Shepard’s family, in order to escape the possibility of a death sentence. They waive their right to appeal as part of their plea deal. “Bottom line, Aaron was afraid he was going to die,” DeBree later says. [Salon, 11/5/1999; Salon, 11/6/1999; ABC News, 11/26/2004] Dennis Shepard, the father of the victim, speaks for the family in court. “I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney,” he says. “However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt.… Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life and may you thank Matthew every day for it.” [Salon, 11/5/1999]
Triggers Legislation - Shepard’s death will be a catalyst for the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (see October 28, 2009). Shepard’s mother will create a foundation in her son’s name dedicated to promoting tolerance and diversity. And Shepard’s story will be retold in documentaries, television movies, and a play called “The Laramie Project,” which will often be performed in schools to address the issues of hate and prejudice. [ABC News, 11/26/2004]
Entity Tags: Dennis Shepard, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Matthew Shepard, Flint Waters, Bill McKinney, Aaron McKinney, Aaron Kreifels, Tina LaBrie, Russell Henderson, Rob DeBree
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The FBI announces that it is charging anti-abortion activist Eric Robert Rudolph with the 1996 bombing of Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park as well as with the 1997 bombing of an Atlanta abortion clinic (see January 16, 1997) and an Atlanta nightclub (see February 21, 1997). Rudolph has been a fugitive from law enforcement authorities since his January 1998 bombing of an Alabama clinic (see January 29, 1998), for which he has already been charged. “We are going to keep searching until we find him,” says Attorney General Janet Reno. The current complaint against Rudolph cites five counts of malicious use of an explosive in violation of federal law. FBI Director Louis Freeh calls Rudolph a domestic terrorist. The FBI has Rudolph on its Most Wanted list. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/1998] The charges will be formalized, and new charges added, in November 2000, when grand juries hand down additional indictments. [CNN, 5/31/2003] Rudolph will be captured after almost five years of living as a fugitive (see May 31, 2003).
The Reverend Fred Phelps, holding a sign outside Matthew Shepard’s funeral service. [Source: Slate]The funeral for Matthew Shepard, a gay college student brutally murdered by three white supremacists (see October 9, 1998 and After), is held in St. Mark’s Church in Casper, Wyoming. The service is led by the Reverend Anne Kitch. [CNN, 10/13/1998; Louie Crew, 10/14/1998] The Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, leads a small delegation of church members in a raucous denunciation of homosexuality at Shepard’s funeral. Phelps and his congregation members have picketed the funerals of gay men for years across the country, holding “God Hates Fags” signs and harassing family members. Governor Jim Geringer (R-WY) says he cannot prevent Phelps from attending the funeral, but vows that the protesters will not be allowed to disrupt it. Phelps’s group, Geringer says, is “just flat not welcome. What we don’t need is a bunch of wing nuts coming in.” For his part, Phelps, who claims he has received multiple death threats after announcing his journey to Laramie, says: “We’re not going to tolerate any violence from these homosexuals. They are the most violent people in the world. Here they are talking about what happened to this poor boy, and they turn around and make death threats against us.” Geringer, the Casper City Council, and several groups of gay activists succeeded in passing a regulation that keeps Phelps and his protesters 50 feet away from church property during the funeral. “[I]t was the best we could accomplish without risking an immediate court injunction for violating constitutional free speech,” reads a statement by the local chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans. “Such an injunction might have allowed Phelps to walk right up to the church property line.” [CNN, 10/13/1998; Log Cabin Republicans, 10/16/1998] Phelps and his fellow church members picket the funeral with signs reading, “Matt Shepard Rots in Hell,” “AIDS Kills Fags Dead,” and “God Hates Fags.” [Fact-Index, 2004] Five years later, Phelps will attempt to erect a marker emblazoned with inflammatory statements about Shepard in a local park, to “commemorate” his death (see October 3, 2003).
The Vail resort in flames. [Source: Mark Mobley / Colorado Independent]Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) activists set fire to a Vail, Colorado, ski resort, causing $12 million in damage. At the time, the Vail attack is the costliest ecoterrorist attack in US history. The attack consists of seven separate fires, which destroy three buildings, including the “spectacular” Two Elk restaurant, and damage four chairlifts. In a press release, the ELF says: “[P]utting profits ahead of Colorado’s wildlife will not be tolerated.… We will be back if this greedy corporation continues to trespass into wild and unroaded [sic] areas.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]
Resort Threatens Lynx Habitat - The ELF justifies the bombing by claiming that the resort encroaches on the natural habitat of Canada lynx in the area, an endangered species; an 885-acre planned expansion would, the group claims, virtually destroy the habitat. The resort and other construction have virtually eliminated all lynx from the area. [Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Activist Says ELF Not a Terrorist Group - In a 2007 jailhouse interview, one of the activists, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, will discuss her role in the bombing. An activist since her mid-teens, she began by getting involved with “above ground” protests with Earth First! (see 1980 and After), a less overtly militant environmental organization, and became disillusioned when she saw how little effect such protests had on corporate depredations. She will say that she and her colleagues were extremely careful about buying the materials for the firebombs, not wanting to raise suspicions. They built the actual devices in a Utah motel room, with group leader William C. Rodgers, whom Gerlach and the others call “Avalon,” doing the bulk of the work. After performing a final reconnaisance of the lodge, some of the ELF members decide the bombing cannot be done, and return to Oregon. Rodgers actually plants the devices and sets them off; Gerlach, who accompanies Rodgers and others to the resort, later emails the statements released under the ELF rubric. Gerlach will say: “We weren’t arsonists. Many of our actions didn’t involve fires at all, and none of us fit the profile of a pyromaniac. I guess ‘eco-saboteur’ works. To call us terrorists, as the federal government did, is stretching the bounds of credibility. I got involved at a time when a right-winger had just bombed the Oklahoma City federal building—killing 168 people—(see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and anti-abortionists were murdering doctors (see March 10, 1993 and July 29, 1994). But the government characterized the ELF as a top domestic terrorism threat because we burned down unoccupied buildings in the middle of the night. It shows their priorities.” [Outside, 9/2007]
Apprehensions, Convictions - The Vail firebombing focuses national attention on the organization, as well as on other “ecoterror” groups that use vandalism, arson, and other destructive methods to further their agendas. In December 2006, Gerlach and Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff will plead guilty to federal arson charges. Gerlach and Meyerhoff have already pled guilty to other arsons committed between 1996 and 2001 by a Eugene-based ELF cell known as the Family, which disbanded in 2001. (Gerlach will say that the Family took great pains to ensure that while property was destroyed, no one was injured; “In Eugene in the late nineties, more than a couple of timber company offices were saved by the proximity of neighboring homes.”) The FBI learned about them from an informant who enticed friends of the two to speak about the crimes in surreptitiously recorded conversations. Both are sentenced to lengthy jail terms and assessed multi-million dollar restitution fines. Two others indicted in the arson, Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Rebecca J. Rubin, who do not directly participate in the Vail firebombing, remain at large. Rodgers will commit suicide in an Arizona jail in December 2005 after being apprehended. Several others will later be arrested and convicted for their roles in the assault. [Associated Press, 12/14/2006; Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Firebombing Detrimental to Local Activism - Gerlach will later say that the Vail firebombing was actually detrimental to local environmental activism. [Outside, 9/2007] In 2008, Ryan Bidwell, the executive director of Colorado Wild, will agree. He will say that the fires damaged the trust the community once had in the environmental activist movement, and will add that the federal government used the fires to demonize the entire environmental movement. “I don’t think it really changed the Bush administration agenda, but it probably made their job easier by lumping those actions onto the broad umbrella of terrorism over the last decade,” Bidwell will say. “I don’t think that’s been effective at all, but every time that someone lumps groups here in Colorado under the same umbrella as ELF it’s really disingenuous. In places like Vail that have a history it’s made it more important for the conservation community to communicate what its objectives are.” [Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]
Entity Tags: Rebecca J. Rubin, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, Earth First!, Josephine Sunshine Overaker, Earth Liberation Front, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Wild, Bush administration (43), Ryan Bidwell, William C. Rodgers, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
An impromptu rally on New York City’s Fifth Avenue to mourn and protest the recent murder of a gay college student in Wyoming, Matthew Shepard (see October 9, 1998 and After), ends with at least 96 arrests and several injuries after demonstrators face off with police in riot gear and on horseback. No one is seriously injured during the confrontation, which features several short charges by police officers wielding billy clubs and plunging their horses into the crowd. Rally organizers did not secure a permit to march from the city. Over 4,000 people attend the march, billed as a “political funeral” to protest Shepard’s murder. The rally turns confrontational after police refuse to allow the marchers to take to the street. Organizers and marchers will accuse the police of overreacting, and say that the rally would have remained peaceful had they been allowed to complete their march. “The police refused to negotiate with us,” says organizer Sara Pursley. “The police refused even to talk to us. And by doing so, they created far more havoc in the city than we had ever planned to create.” She calls the police response “cruel and brutal.” Police say that the marchers endangered public safety by walking in the street. Police Commissioner Patrick Kelleher says of the police response: “They had a right to gather. But once they left the sidewalk, they were endangering the motorists, they were endangering the pedestrians. And we were forced to make arrests.” Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who usually takes a hardline stance against civil disturbances, says he understands the marchers’ feelings. “It’s a very worthy cause,” he says. “I can understand why they are so outraged and upset.” However, Giuliani supports the police response. Organizers later say they were surprised to see how many people joined in the rally. Pursley later says she and the other organizers expected 500 people at best. [New York Times, 10/20/1998; New York Times, 10/21/1998] The New York Times editorial board is highly critical of the police response. Marchers should have secured a permit, the editors say in an op-ed, but the police response was excessive. [New York Times, 10/21/1998]
James Kopp. [Source: Women's eNews (.org)]Dr. Barnett Slepian, an obstetrician in Buffalo, New York, who performs abortions, is shot to death in his kitchen, by a bullet that enters through the window of his Amherst, New York, home. His wife and one of his four children witness his murder. Anti-abortion advocate James Kopp shoots Slepian with a high-powered rifle. Kopp uses the pseudonym “Clive Swenson,” and is well known under that name in a Jersey City, New Jersey, Catholic congregation. Militant anti-abortionists call him “Atomic Dog.” It will take the FBI over two years to find Kopp, who will be arrested in France (see March 29, 2001). Kopp, who apparently was drawn to anti-abortion protests in the 1970s after his girlfriend had an abortion, has been active in anti-abortion protests for decades and joined Randall Terry’s Operation Rescue in 1986. It is also believed he joined the violent anti-abortion organization “Army of God” in 1988 (see 1982), as well as the “Lambs of God,” a Catholic anti-abortion group whose leader has characterized the anti-abortion movement as a “war between God and Satan.” Kopp is well known for designing intricate locks that anti-abortion protesters use to lock the doors to women’s health care clinics. Slepian has been listed as a “wanted” abortion provider on the anti-abortion Web site “Nuremberg Files,” which The Guardian will describe as “a virtual hit list of doctors who carry out abortions” (see January 1997). Within hours of his murder, Slepian’s name is reposted on the site, this time with a line drawn through it. [Washington Post, 1998; Womens eNews, 3/30/2001; Guardian, 4/1/2001; National Abortion Federation, 2010] By early November, Kopp will be named as a suspect in the murder, though he will not be formally charged until May 1999. He will be placed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list in June 1999. [National Abortion Federation, 2010] In 2002, Kopp will confess to the murder (see November 21, 2002). He will be found guilty a year later (see March 17-18, 2003).
Ten Montana Freemen are retried in a Billings, Montana, court (see July 3-8, 1998). This case centers on 35 criminal charges, mostly for bank and mail fraud and armed robbery indictments. Sixty-five witnesses will testify in the trial. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
A federal judge sentences three members of the anti-government Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, May 27, 1998 and After, and July 3-8, 1998) to jail. Russell Landers, who told the court that it had no jurisdiction over him, receives over 11 years in prison for conspiracy, bank fraud, threatening a federal judge, and being a fugitive in possession of a firearm. Emmett Clark, who is ill, is sentenced to time served plus three years’ probation; he pled guilty to threatening to kidnap and murder Montana federal judge Jack Shanstrom. Dana Dudley, Landers’s wife, pled guilty to interstate transportation and is sentenced to time served plus another 21 months in prison. When the sentencing hearing begins, Landers interjects, “This is now the supreme court of Justus Township, Russell Dean presiding.” Landers is referring to “Justus Township,” the ranch formerly occupied by the Freemen (see September 28, 1995 and After). When Judge John Coughenour attempts to proceed, Landers says: “Bailiff, remove me. I have no part in the United States, no part in these proceedings.” He repeats his contention and sits quietly for the remainder of the hearing. [New York Times, 11/8/1998]
A jury convicts 10 Montana Freemen on an array of fraud and armed robbery charges (see October 23, 1998). All but one of the Freemen charged with armed robbery are convicted; some of the defendants are acquitted on mail fraud charges. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) asks a federal appeals court in Denver for a new trial, contending that Judge Richard P. Matsch, who presided over his trial, made a number of reversible errors in both the trial and sentencing. Nichols’s co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) has also asked for a new trial (see January 16, 1998), a request that was denied (see September 8, 1998). Nichols’s legal team, Michael Tigar, Susan L. Foreman, and Adam Thurschwell, argue that Matsch erred in the instructions he gave the jurors, in the testimony he permitted, and in his interpretation of federal sentencing guidelines. According to Nichols’s lawyers, Matsch erred when he told the jury that Nichols’s responsibility for the deaths of people killed as a result of the bombing conspiracy (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) did not depend on proof that Nichols intended to kill anyone. An intent to kill, Nichols’s lawyers contend, is a necessary element in the offense. The jurors who convicted Nichols of conspiracy acquitted him of blowing up the building and of first- or second-degree murder in the deaths of the officers. They also contend that Nichols should have been sentenced under federal guidelines for arson and property damage, not first-degree murder, and that the restitution order of $14.5 million is punitive. [New York Times, 11/22/1998]
The New York Times prints a lengthy interview with Craig Rosebraugh, who serves as an unofficial spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997). Rosebraugh, who claims to sympathize with the group even though knowing little about it, has spent weeks sending out statements and press releases on behalf of the ELF after the recent firebombing of a Vail, Colorado, ski resort (see October 19, 1998). Rosebraugh, who was contacted by unidentified ELF members about the Vail fires, says the ELF takes credit for the incident, and defends it by saying the resort has caused extensive damage to the area’s lynx habitats and a planned expansion would all but destroy those habitats. “They don’t want this to be seen like an act of terrorism,” he recently told a reporter on behalf of ELF. “They instead want this to be seen as an act of love for the environment.” The firebombing was not an instance of so-called “ecoterrorism,” he told another reporter: “To me, Vail expanding into lynx habitat is ecoterrorism.” Many mainstream groups such as the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife have condemned the Vail firebombing; Jonathan Staufer of the Colorado group Ancient Forest Rescue, who has been working to stop the Vail resort’s proposed expansion, says: “It marginalized all the enviromentalists in Colorado who have been fighting it. I can’t condemn it more completely.” Rosebraugh became active in extreme environmental movements in June 1997, when he was contacted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) and asked to be its “aboveground” spokesperson. Since then, he has formed a group called the Liberation Collective, which he says is intended to bring the ELF, ALF, and other “direct action” groups together to make common cause (see 1996 and After). Lieutenant Jeff Howard of the Oregon State Police says of the two groups, “If the truth be known, there are members that are probably members of both groups.” Because of the decentralized, “cell” structure of both ELF and ALF, federal investigators have had difficulty determining even the most basic facts about the two organizations. Recently, Rosebraugh said of the federal investigations into ELF, ALF, and the Vail firebombing: “This is a very hot topic not only for the media, but most important it’s a hot topic for the FBI and government agencies. The FBI just had a big meeting on animal rights terrorism. So there’s obviously going to be a big crackdown soon. It’s hard to imagine what’s going to happen but you can only look at history, and history shows that there is going to be a lot of pressure and my feeling is the best way to act is to resist.” [New York Times Magazine, 12/20/1998]
Activists with the underground environmental group Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) set fire to the US Forest Industries headquarters in Medford, Oregon. In mid-January 1999, the group will take credit for the blaze in a fax sent to the Associated Press. The ELF fax claims the fire was set “in retribution for all the wild forests and animals lost to feed the wallets of greedy” corporations. ELF spokesperson Craig Rosebraugh (see December 20, 1998) will say: “They have a clear political and social purpose. That’s to end the exploitative and abusive industry practices at hand.” The ELF fax reads in part: “On the foggy night after Christmas when everyone was digesting their turkey and pie, Santa’s ELFs dropped two five-gallon buckets of diesel/unleaded mix and a one-gallon jug with cigarette delays, which proved to be more than enough to get this party started.” The office that burns serves as the offices for four wood mills. Damage is estimated at $500,000. [New York Times, 1/17/1999]
Charles Key. [Source: Oklahoma City Sentinel]An Oklahoma County grand jury investigating alternative theories about the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 30, 1997) wraps up without naming any new suspects aside from convicted bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see June 4, 1998). After hearing 117 witnesses and weathering criticism that its work gave legitimacy to wild conspiracy theories surrounding the blast, the grand jury reports: “We cannot affirmatively state that absolutely no one else was involved in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. However, we have not been presented with or uncovered information sufficient to indict any additional conspirators.” [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; New York Times, 12/31/1998; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Findings - The jury reviewed documentation of a number of “warning” telephone calls to federal and local law enforcement agencies, and determined that none of them warned of a bombing attack against the Murrah Building, or any other attack. One such call came a week before the blast, a 911 call from an Oklahoma City restaurant that warned the operator of an upcoming bombing. The caller gave no more details. Police quickly looked into the call and determined it came from a mental patient who lived in a nearby care facility. The jury also investigated the numerous claims of sightings of a possible third bomber, “John Doe No. 2,” and determined that the information given by the witnesses was so disparate and general that nothing useful could be concluded. The jury reports that the sightings were most likely of Todd Bunting, an Army private who had no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). “The similarity of… Todd Bunting to the composite of John Doe No. 2 [is] remarkable, particularly when you take into account Bunting’s tattoo of a Playboy bunny on his upper left arm and the fact that he was wearing a black T-shirt and a Carolina Panthers ball cap when he was at Elliott’s Body Shop,” the report states. Witness statements of “John Doe No. 2” fleeing the scene of the bombing in a “brown pickup truck” were erroneous, the report finds. A brown pickup truck did leave the area shortly before the bombing, driven by an employee of the Journal Record Building near the Murrah Building. The driver left the building shortly before the bombing after being informed that her child was ill. The jury finds no evidence that the bombing was orchestrated by the federal government, or that any agency knew about the bombing in advance. [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; Denver Post, 1/9/1999]
Journalist Indicted for Jury Tampering - The jury does bring an indictment against investigative journalist David Hoffman, who will plead guilty to jury tampering, admitting that he sent one of the alternate grand jurors a letter copy of a book on conspiracy theories about the bombing. In a sealed indictment, the jury cited Hoffman for “improper and perhaps illegal attempts to exert influence on the outcome of our investigation.” Hoffman will be given a suspended sentence and 200 hours of community service. Hoffman will later call the indictment “a sham charge by a corrupt government designed to silence me,” and will write a book, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, which says the government falsely accused McVeigh and Nichols of the crime, concealing the involvement of others, perhaps members of neo-Nazi groups with which McVeigh was involved (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and (April 1) - April 18, 1995). [New York Times, 12/31/1998; Vanity Fair, 9/2001; Lukeford (.net), 11/25/2002]
Report Denounced - Former Oklahoma State Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City), who helped convene the grand jury, immediately denounces the findings. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001] Key has insisted that McVeigh and Nichols had unplumbed connections with Islamist terrorists (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, and 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After), and has insisted that what he calls “revisionist news reports” by the mainstream media have failed to show Islamist connections to the bombing. He has even implied that government officials were complicit in the bombing. [Charles Key, 3/12/1997] The grand jury reports, “We can state with assurance that we do not believe that the federal government had prior knowledge that this horrible terrorist attack was going to happen.” The jury findings are “a ditto of what the federal government presented in the McVeigh trial,” Key states. “It had huge, gaping holes.” Glenn Wilburn, who lost two grandchildren in the bombing, died in 1997 before the jury returned its findings. Key has set up a private non-profit group, the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, which also gathered information about possible witnesses and submitted their names to the grand jury and urged Congress not to let the federal investigation drop. Key says that group will issue a final report of its own that “will read quite differently than this report today.” [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; New York Times, 12/31/1998]
A federal jury in Portland, Oregon, finds in favor of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit Planned Parenthood v. ACLA (see 1996). The jury orders the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA—see July 1993) to pay $109 million in damages to the abortion providers and organizations who brought the suit; Judge Robert Jones declares that the ACLA’s campaign of published threats against the providers is “a blatant and illegal communication of true threats to kill, assault, or do bodily harm.” He issues an injuction against further publication of such threats (see 1996). In 2001, an appeals court will reverse the verdict on First Amendment grounds; a year later, a higher court will reaffirm the original verdict. [Ms. Magazine, 12/2002]
In the vicinity of Aracine, near the Macedonian capital, Skopje, National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas kill three Macedonian police. [Kola, 2003, pp. 377]
FBI Director Louis Freeh, speaking of the possibility of future violence from radical-right militia groups, says: “With the coming of the next millennium, some religious/apocalyptic groups or individuals may turn to violence as they seek to achieve dramatic effects to fulfill their prophecies.… Many white supremacist groups adhere to the Christian Identity belief system (see 1960s and After), which holds that the world is on the verge of a final apocalyptic struggle… and teaches that the white race is the chosen race of God.” Some of these Christian Identity members will commit crimes to prepare for their anticipated Apocalypse, Freeh warns, and says that the US government, Jews, and non-whites are likely targets. [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 5/30/2006] Freeh’s statement anticipates the FBI’s “Project Megiddo” report, which will focus on the possibility of a wave of domestic terrorism coinciding with the “end of the millennium” (see October 20, 1999).
Judge John C. Coughenour sentences Montana Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see November 18, 1998) to over 22 years in prison, and orders almost $40,000 in restitution, on charges stemming from the Freemen’s expansive bad-check scheme that spread throughout the country (see 1993-1994). Freemen leader Rodney Skurdal receives a 15-year sentence. Another group leader, Daniel Petersen, is sentenced to 15 years and ordered to pay $39,845 in restitution. Former Canadian police officer Dale Jacobi receives 13 years. Richard Clark receives 12 years. William Stanton (see October 17, 1994) receives a three-year sentence. Two of the convicted Freemen’s wives, Agnes Stanton and Cherlyn Petersen, are sentenced to time served and released. Coughenour says of the Freemen’s crimes, “What we are talking about is a calculated and organized program to undermine the banking system of this country and to encourage other, more ignorant people to violate the law.” He says that the Freemen’s sentences should send “a loud and clear message to those who pass this hatred and ugliness around.… Be forewarned, your personal liberty is at stake.” Schweitzer and five other Freemen, continuing to refuse to accept the sovereignty of the court, refuse to attend the sentencing and watch the proceedings from a holding cell. [Seattle Times, 3/17/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, December 23, 1997, and June 4, 1998) is charged with 160 counts of murder at the state level in Oklahoma. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty. Nichols is serving a life sentence as a conspirator in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people. The 160 counts of murder represent the civilians, as opposed to federal agents, killed in the blast. Oklahoma District Attorney Robert Macy says of Nichols’s previous convictions: “I’m not satisfied with the outcome of the Nichols trial. I feel like he needs to be tried before an Oklahoma jury.” Nichols escaped murder convictions in the previous trial. Along with the 160 counts of murder, Nichols faces one count of first-degree manslaughter for the death of a fetus, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and one count of aiding and counseling in the placing of a substance or bomb near a public building. Macy says he intends to try Nichols’s convicted co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) at a later date. [New York Times, 5/30/1999; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Anti-abortion advocate Michael Bray (see September 1994), serving four years for conspiracy in firebombing 10 abortion clinics in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, tells a CBS reporter, “I consider blowing up a place where babies are killed a justifiable act.” Bray is a Lutheran minister. [Feminist Women's Health Center News, 2010]
Michael E. Tigar, the lead defense attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998), says evidence given to the defense near the end of the federal trial provided enough information about another suspect to warrant a new trial (see March 31 - April 12, 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 16-19, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 17-21, 1995, (6:00 p.m.) April 17, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 7:00 p.m. April 18, 1995, April 18, 1995, and Early Morning, April 19, 1995). “Government counsel argued that Mr. Nichols mixed the bomb and that he was with [fellow conspirator Timothy] McVeigh for long periods on April 17 and 18,” Tigar states (see April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, April 15-16, 1995, April 16-17, 1995, Late Evening, April 17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and Early Afternoon, April 18, 1995). “The withheld evidence contradicts this key government theory.” Tigar called a number of witnesses who said they saw McVeigh with an unknown suspect known as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995) and/or other people during key periods in the days and weeks leading up to the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Tigar will demand those documents for his new trial request. [New York Times, 7/8/1999; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009] Judge Richard P. Matsch, who presided over the first trial, will deny Nichols’s request. [New York Times, 9/14/1999] In December 2000, a federal appeals court will also deny the request. [New York Times, 12/19/2000]
Former President George H. W. Bush, a former director of the CIA, speaks at the dedication ceremony of the new intelligence center bearing his name. In the course of his speech, Bush says: “We need more human intelligence. That means we need more protection for the methods we use to gather intelligence and more protection for our sources, particularly our human sources, people that are risking their lives for their country.… I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 4/26/1999] These remarks will later be unearthed in conjunction with the White House’s leaking of the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see June 23, 2003, July 7, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, July 8, 2003, 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, and Before July 14, 2003), and the publication of her name and status by conservative columnist Robert Novak (see July 14, 2003).
William Pierce, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the author of the inflammatory and highly influential white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), writes in the Alliance’s monthly Bulletin: “People who are living comfortably now will resist doing anything to jeopardize their situations. Cowards will remain cowards. But a growing minority of serious, moral people will admit finally, at least to themselves, that we have tolerated the Jews for far too long and that revolution is the correct course for patriots.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ]
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) blames the recent high school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on the “liberal elite.” In a speech to a woman’s organization, Gingrich says, “I want to say to the elite in this country—the elite news media, the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite—I accuse you in Littleton and I accuse you in Kosovo of being afraid to talk about the mess you have made, and being afraid for taking responsibility for the things you have done.” The Columbine shooting took place in part because Democrats have taken prayer and God out of the classroom, Gingrich says. [CNN, 5/12/1999]
Three separate instances of arson committed against synagogues are registered in Sacramento, California. Authorities believe the arsons may have been carried out by members of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), in part because of WCOTC leaflets found in one of the synagogue’s parking lots during a Holocaust Memorial Day service in April 1999. [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999; Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999]
Judge Walter Smith, presiding over the $675 million wrongful-death civil suit filed by a number of Branch Davidians (see April 1995) against the federal government and a number of its employees and officials, removes some of the defendants and plaintiffs from the proceedings. However, he rules that the case can go to trial. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/21/2000]
Indiana newspapers announce that the Illinois State Bar Association has denied an appeal by Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), to practice law (see April 1999). Apparently the news triggers a murderous shooting spree by one of Hale’s disciples, Benjamin Smith (see July 2-4, 1999). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999] Hales releases a statement that reads in part: “I have been denied my most precious rights of speech and religion. If the courthouse is closed to ‘NON APPROVED RELIGIONS,’ America can only be headed for violence.” Asked if he thinks Smith’s shooting spree was connected to the Illinois State Bar’s decision, Hale replies: “I do. I very much do.” [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999] Hale subsequently files an appeal with the United States Supreme Court, an appeal which will be denied; in response to that denial, Hale will state that he could “no longer in good faith and in good conscience urge, recommend, or instruct my adherents and supporters in general to obey the laws of this land… whatever blood is spilled with be [sic] on the hands of those who so severely wronged us today.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
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]
Based on the recent lawsuit by the National Organization for Women (see April 20, 1998), District Judge David Coar issues a nationwide injunction against the anti-abortion advocates who lost the case. Coar’s injunction forbids the defendants from hindering the right of women to obtain reproductive health services at clinics and the right of the clinics to provide those services. One of the defendants, Joseph Scheidler, will appeal the ruling on several grounds, including the First Amendment right of free speech. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]
A researcher for a 1997 documentary about the Branch Davidian debacle near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), questions the government’s claim that the FBI did not use incendiary devices when it launched its assault on the Davidian compound. The assault triggered a fire that swept through the compound and killed nearly 80 Davidians, including their leader, David Koresh. Officials have since denied any use of incendiary or pyrotechnic devices during the assault, and investigations have concluded that the Davidians themselves set the fires that consumed them (see August 4, 1995). Researcher Michael McNulty, who is preparing a new documentary on the final assault, says state and federal officials are refusing to allow public access to over 12 tons of evidence from the Davidian site stored in Waco. McNulty says that according to evidence logs compiled by the Texas Rangers, at least six items listed as silencers or suppressors are actually “flash-bang” devices used by law enforcement officials to stun suspects. McNulty says the devices can start fires in small, enclosed spaces. The evidence logs show that the devices were found in areas of the compound in which the fires began, McNulty says. “It’s our belief that these pieces of ordnance could and probably did have an impact on the fire on April 19th,” he says. Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin calls the allegations “nonsense” and says they ignore evidence that the fire was set in several places at the same time. “We know of no evidence that any incendiary device or flash-bang device was fired into the compound on April 19,” Marlin says. The chairman of the Texas Department of Public Safety, James Francis, says he has asked a federal judge to take control of the evidence and allow experts to examine it. [Associated Press, 7/29/1999] Francis will succeed in having the evidence opened and reexamined (see August 10, 1999 and After). Shortly thereafter, the Justice Department will admit that such devices were indeed used during the assault, but will claim that they had nothing to do with starting the fires (see August 25, 1999 and After). Examination will show that at least one of the spent shells was from an illumination flare fired into the compound during the early days of the assault (see September 9, 1999).
Attorney General Janet Reno says she knows of no evidence that would prove the FBI was responsible for the fires that killed nearly 80 Branch Davidians in a 1993 assault on the group’s Waco compound (see April 19, 1993). Reno is responding to questions raised by a Texas state commissioner and a documentary filmmaker that center on the possible use of incendiary devices by the FBI during the final assault on the Davidian compound (see July 29, 1999). “I have gone over everything and I know of no such evidence,” she says, and echoes Justice Department assertions that the Davidians themselves started the fires that destroyed their compound and killed most of their fellow group members. “Our practice has been… to review all reports, to consider all allegations. And to date, I have found no basis for concluding that the FBI was in any way responsible,” Reno says. A Justice Department spokesperson has called the allegations “nonsense.” [Excite, 7/29/1999] Shortly thereafter, the Justice Department will admit that such devices were indeed used during the assault, but will claim that they had nothing to do with starting the fires (see August 25, 1999 and After).
Greater Ministries International Church (GMIC) logo. [Source: GMIC / Rick Ross]US marshals in Tampa, Florida, seize the headquarters of the Greater Ministries International Church (GMIC). The church is at the center of a lengthy investigation into a massive “Patriot movement” fraud scheme; federal authorities have already indicted several church principals. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001] Five leaders of the GMIC will later be convicted of multiple charges and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The GMIC scheme, which prosecutors call an enormous “Ponzi scheme,” garnered some $500 million from 18,000 Christian investors who believed the GMIC assurances that God would double their money. In late 2001, Gerald Payne, the leader of the scam, will be sentenced to 27 years for his conviction on 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, money-laundering, and related charges. His wife, Betty Payne, will receive 12 years and seven months. (Judge James Whittemore will give her a lengthier sentence than he had first planned after she announces in court that the trial violates her and her husband’s constitutional rights, and because they were led by the Holy Spirit, she and her husband broke no laws.) Patrick Henry Talbert, who taught church-sponsored antigovernment legal seminars and claimed to be a “sovereign citizen” not subject to US law (see Fall 2010), will get nearly 20 years tacked onto the 10-year term he is serving on unrelated state charges. Eudon “Don” Hall, a flamboyant evangelist for GMIC’s “Faith Promises” program, will be given almost 20 years. David Whitfield, the financial and computer manager for GMIC, will attempt to deny involvement and knowledge of the scam, but will be proven a liar by testimony from an IRS agent that shows he knows where more than $1 million of the stolen funds is hidden in Mexico. Whittemore will sentence Whitfield to 19 years, warning him that if a Mexican cache is found and connected to him, he could face additional charges. Two other GMIC defendants, Andrew Krishak and James Chambers, will plead guilty and cooperate with authorities, receiving significantly lesser sentences. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Christianity Today, 10/1/2001]
Buford Furrow. [Source: Eye on Hate (.com)]Buford O’Neal Furrow, a security guard and member of the white supremacist Aryan Nations organization (see Early 1970s), attacks a day care center at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles. Apparently to avoid capture, Furrow leaves his van behind and hijacks a car to drive to the center. Upon entering, he opens fire with an Uzi submachine gun, wounding three children, a counselor, and a receptionist. Investigators will determine that Furrow fires 70 shots. Furrow flees the scene and shortly thereafter encounters letter carrier Joseph Ileto, a Filipini-American. Furrow approaches Ileto and asks him if he can post a letter for him. As Ileto reaches for the piece of mail, Furrow pulls a Glock 9mm pistol and shoots him twice. Ileto attempts to get away, but Furrow pumps seven more bullets into his back. Ileto dies at the scene. Furrow will surrender the next day in Las Vegas, where he has fled the manhunt by state and local officials. He later tells investigators that the shootings are a “wake-up call” to Jews and white supremacist groups, and that he considered Ileto a good target because he was non-white and worked for the government. Police find a book in Furrow’s van extolling the virtues of the “Christian Identity” movement (see 1960s and After). Some will speculate that Furrow was acting as a “Phineas Priest” (see [1990), Christian Identity members who believe God has called them to carry out violent attacks. The book details how to become a “Phineas Priest,” and gives examples of successful actions, including the murder of radio show host Alan Berg (see June 18, 1984 and After). To avoid the death penalty, Furrow will plead guilty and be sentenced to two life sentences without parole, plus 110 years in prison and $690,294 in restitution. The judge will tell him, “Your actions were a reminder that bigotry is alive.” Referring to the support the center victims receive after the shootings, the judge concludes, “If you’ve sent a message, it is that even the most violent crimes can strengthen a community.” [CNN, 1/24/2001; Eye on Hate, 2003; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2010] Investigators will later learn that Furrow may be mentally unstable, and that he was frequently in short-term state psychiatric facilities, where he often expressed his desire to maim and kill. To questions that Furrow should have been involuntarily committed before the community center shootings, psychiatry professor Renee Binder will say: “What does society do with these people? Most people would say that being a racist with violent fantasies is not against the law. Racism is not something that is designated as an illness that can be treated by mental health professionals.” And Seattle official Ron Sims says: “The problem I have is that people are trying to build a case that this killing was done because the man was insane. What he did was cowardly, repulsive, and a very irrational act. But mental illness was not the cause. Hatred was. This guy came out of a culture of hatred.” [New York Times, 8/14/1999]
James B. Francis Jr., the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety and a fundraiser for the presidential campaign of Governor George W. Bush, convinces federal judge Walter Smith to order that government vaults containing 12 tons of evidence from the Branch Davidian compound near Waco be opened, and the contents reexamined. The Davidian compound was destroyed six years ago as the culmination of a 51-day standoff between the residents and the FBI (see April 19, 1993). Smith orders the reopening of the vaults after inquiries from an independent filmmaker, Michael McNulty (see July 29, 1999), and a lawyer, David Hardy, who has long challenged the government’s account of events. There are three kinds of evidence to be examined, Francis has said: “One is shells, shell casings, physical things. The second type of evidence is video and still photographs. The third type are interviews done there on the spot at the time.” Smith’s order reads in part: “First and foremost, the parties to civil litigation pending in this court have the right to seek access (see April 1995). Second, the events that took place between Feb. 28 and April 19, 1993, and thereafter, have resulted in sometimes intense interest from the national media and the members of the public. There may come a time when persons other than the current civil litigants would be allowed access to the materials.” [Associated Press, 8/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/17/1999] One document that will prove to be extremely significant is the 49th and final page of a December 1993 lab report that has long ago been made available to lawmakers and attorneys. The 49th page had been removed. It states that FBI investigators who examined the scene at Waco found a “fired US military 40mm shell casing which originally contained a CS gas round,” and two “expended 40mm tear gas projectiles.” (The Justice Department will later claim that the prosecution and defense lawyers in the civil trial received the 49th page as well.) [Associated Press, 9/11/1999] The Texas Rangers review the contents, and find a spent military tear-gas canister, which forces the FBI and the Justice Department to admit that their agents fired incendiary gas canisters into the compound during the final assault (see August 25, 1999 and After). The government has previously denied firing any weapons into the compound that might have caused the conflagration that consumed the building and killed almost all of the residents. As a result of the investigation, the federal government names a special prosecutor to investigate whether there was a government cover-up (see September 7-8, 1999 and July 21, 2000), and Attorney General Janet Reno (see July 29, 1999) has to weather calls from Republican lawmakers to resign. Later, Francis denies reopening the case for political reasons. His decision “unleashed a series of forces that were apparently a lot bigger than what I recognized,” he will say. “I never dreamed that it would turn into something like this.” He will claim that he is “doing everything in my power to not politicize this” controversy. Governor Bush himself refrains from commenting on the issue, though his chief of staff helped bring McNulty and Hardy to Francis’s attention. Hardy will say of Francis, “I don’t think there’s any question that he is the shining light of this entire inquiry.” Hardy used his friends in the Texas gun lobby to contact former Texas Senator Jerry Patterson; Patterson contacted Bush’s chief of staff Clay Johnson, who in turn referred him to Francis. “I think what happened to Jim Francis is he initially wanted to be very low-key and then as more and more revelations began to surface, he became angry and disgusted, as all of us are,” Patterson will say. “This was not a role that he sought.” As for his own role, Francis will say: “It’s important that the facts come out, whatever those are. I’m not a hero, but I have done the right thing.” [Excite, 7/28/1999; Excite, 7/29/1999; Associated Press, 8/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/17/1999] In July, the Justice Department called Francis’s allegations of mismanagement and possible cover-ups “nonsense.” [Excite, 7/28/1999; Excite, 7/29/1999]
Entity Tags: Branch Davidians, George W. Bush, David Hardy, Clay Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Walter Smith, Texas Rangers, James B. Francis Jr, US Department of Justice, Janet Reno, Michael McNulty, Jerry Patterson
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
Pyrotechnic CS gas canisters. [Source: Law Enforcement Equipment Distribution]According to newly presented documents, the FBI used two or three pyrotechnic tear gas canisters during the raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). The documents contradict earlier FBI and Justice Department claims that law enforcement officials did nothing that could have contributed to the fire that killed over 80 sect members. Former senior FBI official Danny Coulson begins the revelations by admitting to the Dallas Morning News that the FBI had indeed used pyrotechnic grenades, though he says the grenades did not start the fires that consumed the building. Texas Department of Public Safety Commission Chairman James Francis says the Texas Rangers have “overwhelming evidence” supporting Coulson’s statement. “There are written reports by Rangers, there is photographic evidence, there is physical evidence, all three of which are problematic,” Francis says. Coulson, the founder of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team and a former assistant deputy director, says that two M651 CS tear gas grenades were fired into the building, but they were fired hours before the blazes erupted. Attorney General Janet Reno, who tells reporters she knew nothing of the grenade usage and is “very, very frustrated” at the knowledge, appoints former Senator John C. Danforth (R-MO) as the head of an investigatory commission (see September 7-8, 1999); Danforth will find that, regardless of the use of the pyrotechnic gas canisters, law enforcement officials were not responsible for the fire, and neither the FBI nor the Justice Department tried to cover up any actions (see July 21, 2000). [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; Dallas Morning News, 8/25/1999; Salon, 9/9/1999] The military M651 canisters, which burn for about 30 seconds to heat and release the solidified tear gas inside, were fired from a Bradley fighting vehicle at a bunker near the main building (see September 3, 1999). After the assault, a Texas Ranger found a spent 40mm gas canister shell lying on the ground and asked a nearby FBI agent, “What’s this?” The agent promised to find out, but never returned with an answer; the shell went into evidence containers (see August 10, 1999 and After). Two weeks after the FBI acknowledges the use of incendiary gas canisters at the Waco assault, Reno testifies on the matter to the House Judiciary Committee. She says that, based on the briefings she had been given (see April 17-18, 1993), “It was my understanding that the tear gas produced no risk of fire.… That fire was set by David Koresh and the people in that building.” After her testimony, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) calls on Reno to resign. [Newsweek, 9/6/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999] FBI agent Byron Sage, the chief negotiator during the Davidian standoff, will say in 2003 that the incendiary gas canisters could not have set the fires. “This is the critical point, the M651 rounds were never directed towards the wooden structure,” he will say. “They were used in an area yards away from the building. Also, they were used earlier in the day. The fire didn’t start until four hours later. They had absolutely nothing to do with that fire.” Sage will say that the canisters were fired only at a construction pit near the compound where other gas-discharging devices had been smothered in mud. The pit was targeted because some Davidian gunfire during the ATF raid had come from that area, he will say. [Waco Tribune-Herald, 3/16/2003] Charles Cutshaw, an editor of Jane’s Defense Information and an expert on this kind of weapon, says these military tear gas cartridges are not intended to start fires. He says he knows of no studies or reports on how often such cartridges may have caused fires. [Washington Post, 9/4/1999] Shortly after the admission, federal prosecutor Bill Johnston, one of the lawyers for the government in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by surviving Davidians (see April 1995), informs Reno that government lawyers had known for years about the use of pyrotechnic tear-gas rounds (see August 30, 1999). Johnston will be removed from the lawsuit and replaced by US Attorney Michael Bradford. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/21/2000] He will also plead guilty to concealing evidence from investigators concerning the canisters (see November 9, 2000).
Entity Tags: FBI Hostage Rescue Team, Bill Johnston, Danny Coulson, Byron Sage, Branch Davidians, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James B. Francis Jr, Trent Lott, Janet Reno, US Department of Justice, John C. Danforth, Texas Rangers, Charles Cutshaw, Michael Bradford
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
The FBI launches an internal inquiry into why it took six years to admit that agents may have fired potentially flammable tear gas canisters on the final day of the 1993 standoff with the Branch Davidian cult near Waco, Texas (see August 25, 1999 and After). Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh order 40 FBI agents led by an FBI inspector to re-interview everyone who was at the Waco scene. James Francis, the chairman of the Texas Department of Public Safety who pressed for evidence to be reexamined (see August 10, 1999 and After), says federal officials must explain why Delta Force members were at the scene of the final assault (see August 28, 1999). “Everyone involved knows they were there. If there is an issue, it was what was their role at the time,” Francis says. “Some of the evidence that I have reviewed and been made aware of is very problematical as to the role of Delta Force at the siege.” A Defense Department document shows that a Special Forces unit was at the assault; the US military is prohibited from involvement in domestic police work without a presidential order. FBI spokesman James Collingwood says the bureau continues to insist that it did nothing to start the fires that consumed the Davidian compound and killed almost 80 Davidians (see April 19, 1993). “Freeh is deeply concerned that prior Congressional testimony and public statements [about the use of flammable devices] may prove to be inaccurate, a possibility we sincerely would regret.… [A]ll available indications are that those [pyrotechnic gas] rounds were not directed at the main, wooden compound. The rounds did not land near the wooden compound, and they were discharged several hours before the fire started.” Dan Burton (R-IN), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, says: “I am deeply concerned by these inconsistencies.… I intend for the committee to get to the bottom of this.” Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) says that the new evidence indicated “further erosion of the FBI’s credibility.” Privately, Justice Department officials are said to be furious that Reno was allowed to maintain for years that no such incendiary rounds were used during the assault, when some FBI officials presumably knew otherwise. [Associated Press, 8/26/1999] Reno has publicly said she is “very, very upset” at the sequence of events, and Collingwood describes Freeh as “incredulous.” [Newsweek, 9/6/1999]
The media learns that members of the US Army’s elite Delta Force were involved in a March 1993 meeting to discuss the management of the Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and April 19, 1993). Former CIA officer Gene Cullen, who was a senior officer in the CIA’s Office of Security, says that he attended that meeting, which took place at CIA headquarters. Federal law prohibits military involvement in law enforcement matters and precludes CIA operations on domestic soil. The Delta Force members were “mostly observers,” Cullen recalls, but he says that they offered to lend more overt assistance if any more federal agents were killed. “Their biggest fear was that more agents would be killed,” says Cullen. Participants at the meeting also discussed the use of “sleeping gas” which could be used to peacefully end the siege. Cullen tells reporters: “My charter at the agency was facilities personnel and operations worldwide. So we called this meeting [at CIA] during the Waco crisis… to see how the [FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team] would respond if it was one of our buildings in this country, and if it were overseas, how Delta would respond. So we’re all sitting around the room talking about scenarios. The FBI gave us a briefing on what had transpired. The Delta guys didn’t say much. They were playing second fiddle to the FBI.” Pentagon officials deny any military involvement in the Waco siege. [Salon, 8/28/1999] In late October, Army officials will confirm they were asked to assist in the BATF assault that precipitated the crisis (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), and say they questioned the legality of military involvement, which would require a presidential order to allow their involvement in domestic law enforcement matters. A Pentagon official says no consideration was ever given to making a request of President Clinton to allow Army involvement in the situation. Pentagon officials will also admit that three Delta Force members were present at the April assault that destroyed the Davidians and killed almost all of the members, but say that they participated only as observers. They also admit that Delta Force officers did meet with Reno to discuss strategies of forcing the Davidians out of their compound. [Associated Press, 10/31/1999]
Assistant US Attorney William Johnston writes a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, stating that he believes Justice Department officials may have withheld information from her about the FBI’s use of incendiary tear-gas canisters during the assault on the Branch Davidian compound (see April 17-18, 1993 and August 25, 1999 and After). “I have formed the belief that facts may have been kept from you—and quite possibly are being kept from you even now, by components of the department,” he writes. Johnston is the Justice Department’s assistant US attorney in Waco, Texas. [New York Times, 9/14/1999] As recently as a month ago, Reno told reporters that she knew nothing of the use of incendiary devices during the assault (see July 29, 1999). Over a year later, Johnston will plead guilty to concealing such evidence himself (see November 9, 2000).
The FBI releases a videotape taken during the first minutes of the April 1993 assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), which contains audio of Richard Rogers, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (see March 23, 1993), giving permission for agents to fire military tear gas at a bunker several hundred yards away from the main Davidian compound. Those military gas canisters contained incendiary devices to help disperse the gas. The Justice Department recently admitted, after six years of denials, that the FBI did use incendiary devices during the attack, though both agencies continue to insist that their actions did not lead to the fires that consumed the compound and killed almost 80 Davidians (see August 25, 1999 and After). Rogers gave permission to fire the incendiary canisters at 7:48 a.m., almost two hours after the assault commenced. The videotape was taken by an FBI surveillance aircraft using infrared radar during the first hours of the assault. [Reuters, 9/4/1999; Washington Post, 9/4/1999] The next day, the FBI will release another tape with audio describing the effects of one such gas canister on the bunker (see September 3, 1999).
The FBI releases a newly discovered videotape that shows FBI agents using incendiary, or pyrotechnic, tear-gas canisters during the April 1993 assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). The audio portion of the videotape, taken by an FBI surveillance aircraft using infrared radar during the first hours of the assault, shows that agents were unable to breach the concrete wall of a bunker near to the main compound with the gas canister; the tape has an agent saying: “Yeah, the military gas did not penetrate that, uh, bunker where the bus was. It bounced off.” Another agent then suggested moving to a different position where a gas canister could be fired into the bunker through a doorway. The day before, the FBI released an earlier portion of the same videotape that shows the head of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) giving permission for agents to use the incendiary gas canisters on the bunker (see September 2, 1999). The canister bounced off the bunker wall at 8:08 a.m.; the tape runs through 8:24 a.m., when an agent asked that it be shut off. The videotape is more evidence that, contrary to six years of denials from the FBI and the Justice Department, the FBI did use two and perhaps three incendiary devices during the final assault (see August 25, 1999 and After). Four hours after the events of the videotape, the compound erupted in flames that killed almost 80 Davidians; both the Justice Department and the FBI insist that the Davidians, not the FBI, caused the fires that consumed the compound. Attorney General Janet Reno describes herself as “very troubled” over the new evidence. “Over the past two weeks, I, along with many Americans, have been troubled, very troubled, over what has transpired,” she says during a press converence. Reno says her orders to assault the compound (see April 17-18, 1993) were very specific in banning the use of incendiary devices on any portion of the compound. Reno says she will appoint an outsider to head an independent investigation to “get to the truth” of what happened during that assault (see September 7-8, 1999). Reno says she has asked why it took so long for the FBI to inform the Justice Department about the tapes: “I questioned that. I think this is a matter the outside investigator should look at.” [Reuters, 9/4/1999; Washington Post, 9/4/1999]
James Francis, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, announces that Texas Rangers have discovered an expended military illumination flare fired by FBI personnel during the assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). Francis ordered the 12 tons of evidence removed by the Rangers to be reexamined in light of allegations that the FBI might have helped start the fires that consumed the Davidian compound and killed almost 80 people inside (see August 10, 1999 and After and August 25, 1999 and After). Evidence logs indicate that more of the flares were recovered in the weeks after the compound was destroyed. “These flares are potentially a very important issue, inasmuch as the government had enormous spotlights trained on the compound throughout the standoff,” Francis says. “They didn’t need these flares to light the compound. One or more was fired. For what purpose or reason would these rounds be used? I can’t tell you whether they were [shot by] the military or FBI, but certainly, they were fired by government officials.” Francis is referring to allegations that military personnel took part in the assault (see August 28, 1999). FBI spokesman John Collingwood says that he cannot rule out the use of illumination flares during the assault itself: “Several times during the standoff they had people sneaking in or out of the compound at night. Whether they ever used them then, I don’t know. But I can say categorically, we did not use illumination rounds on the 19th.” Rangers continue to comb through the evidence, stored at a warehouse in Waco. Illumination rounds similar to the ones used during the 51-day siege were used by FBI agents during the gun battle with right-wing extremist Robert Jay Mathews (see December 8, 1984). The house Mathews was using as a hideout caught fire during the battle and Mathews died in the flames. [Dallas Morning News, 9/8/1999] Days later, the FBI will assert that the flares were definitely used during the early days of the siege, in an attempt to prevent an intruder from entering the compound (see September 9, 1999).
John C. Danforth. [Source: Huffington Post]Attorney General Janet Reno names former Senator John Danforth (R-MO) as a special counsel to investigate the events of the April 1993 tragedy outside of Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), and specifically to determine whether actions by the FBI led to the fire that destroyed the Branch Davidian compound and killed almost 80 Davidians. Reno opens the investigation after learning that the FBI concealed evidence of the use of incendiary gas cartridges during the assault on the Davidian compound, actions that some believe may have started some of the fires (see August 10, 1999 and After, August 25, 1999 and After, and August 26, 1999). Danforth is a former US attorney general and an Episcopal priest. According to an Associated Press report, “both admirers and detractors have noted his emphasis on morals as well as his stubborn independence.” Former Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-MO), who served in the Senate with Danforth for 10 years, says: “He calls them like he sees them. Members of the Senate or House will have full faith in his finding.” [Associated Press, 9/7/1999; Associated Press, 9/9/1999; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/21/2000] Republicans in Congress have called on Reno to resign, while Democrats defend her tenure and say her actions during and after the Waco assault have been “commendable.” House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) says that he will hold off on attempting to launch a five-member commission to probe the Waco debacle. He will allow the Danforth investigation to proceed unimpeded, unless he feels the Justice Department is not cooperating with the probe. “Should events prove otherwise, we will reconsider this decision,” Hyde says. [Associated Press, 9/9/1999] Danforth’s investigation will clear the FBI and the federal government of any wrongdoing (see July 21, 2000).
Investigators say that a spent illumination flare found in evidence stored after the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and September 7, 1999) may have been one of two such devices fired by FBI agents to stop an intruder from entering the sect’s compound during the early days of the standoff (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). At least two such flares were fired during the 51-day standoff, which ended in flames that killed almost 80 Davidians. Some believe the FBI started the fires, either deliberately or accidentally, that consumed the compound. FBI spokesman John Collingwood says, “From talking to people in our Hostage Rescue Team, at one time, when your floodlight illumination was not active, they shot two parachute illumination rounds because of concern about people trying to sneak into the compound.” Rangers discovered the spent remains of one of the devices, a star parachute flare, when they recently searched a Waco storage facility for missing pyrotechnic tear-gas grenades (see August 10, 1999 and After). Currently, the government is enacting an investigation to determine if the FBI fired flammable devices into the compound, and why it took six years to acknowledge the use of military tear-gas canisters (see September 7-8, 1999). [Associated Press, 9/9/1999]
One of the few survivors of the April 1993 conflagration that killed over 70 members of the Branch Davidian sect near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), writes of the events of that day and their aftermath. David Thibodeau was in the Mt. Carmel compound when the FBI tanks and armored vehicles began crashing through the walls. He recalls walls collapsing, CS gas billowing in, and a cacophony of noise assaulting his ears, from exploding rockets (ferret rounds containing CS gas) and tank-tread squeals to the shrieks of terrified children. The idea of trying to leave the building, he writes, “seemed insane; with tanks smashing through your walls and rockets smashing through the windows, our very human reaction was not to walk out but to find a safe corner and pray.” He and his fellow Davidians found the FBI’s reassurances, delivered over loudspeakers, of “This is not an assault!” confusing, conjoined as they were with tanks smashing down walls and gas being sprayed all over the building.
No Compulsion to Stay - Thibobeau insists that Davidian leader David Koresh had no intentions of ending the siege with a mass suicide; Koresh allowed those who wanted to leave the compound, even during the siege itself. “But many of us stayed, too, not because we had to, but because we wanted to,” Thibodeau explains. “The FBI and [B]ATF (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) had been confrontational from the start, they had lied to us and they continued lying up through the siege.”
FBI, Not Davidians, Set Fires? - He accuses the BATF of “fabricating” the charges that led that agency to raid the compound in February, writing that false allegations of drug use prompted the raid (the raid was actually prompted by charges of illegal firearms possession and child abuse—see November 1992 - January 1993 and May 26, 1993). He notes that a CIA agent has alleged that Delta Force commandos took part in the siege (see August 28, 1999), and says that FBI audiotapes prove federal agents, not the Davidians, caused the fire that destroyed the compound, largely through the use of incendiary devices (see Late September - October 1993, August 4, 1995, and August 25, 1999 and After). Thibodeau says that other videotapes show FBI agents firing into the compound during the final assault, and BATF agents firing into the compound from helicopters during the February raid. He writes: “The FBI has not come close to revealing the full government complicity in the Waco massacre. In the years since the fire, I’ve tried desperately to find out what really happened. What I’ve discovered is disturbing.” Thibodeau finds the allegations of child abuse particularly disturbing. He says while children were spanked for disciplinary purposes, “the strict rule was they could never be paddled in anger,” and “wild allegations” that children were scheduled to be sacrificed on Yom Kippur came from a single disgruntled former resident, Marc Breault, and were not true.
Intentions to Peacefully End Siege - Thibodeau writes that Koresh intended to settle the siege peacefully, by allowing himself to be taken into custody. He intended to stay long enough to finish his treatise on the “Seven Seals” of Biblical prophecy (see April 14-15, 1993). “The FBI thought the Seven Seals issue was just a ploy, and dismissed it,” Thibodeau writes. “But it was legitimate, and in the ashes of Mount Carmel they found that Koresh had completed the first two commentaries and was hard at work on the third when the tanks rolled in.”
'No Affinity with the Right' - Thibodeau writes of the heavy irony in the fact that many right-wing separatists and supremacists such as Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) have embraced the Davidians as part of their movement. “[W]e had no affinity with the right,” he notes, and says, “One irony of the Waco disaster is that right-wing extremists and racists look to Mount Carmel as a beacon; if they realized that so many of us were black, Asian, and Latino, and that we despised their hateful politics and anger, they would probably feel bitterly betrayed.” While not all of the Davidians “leaned to the left,” he writes, “we also had a ‘live and let live’ attitude that had allowed the community to co-exist with its Texas neighbors for all those decades. We certainly weren’t as isolated as people seem to think.” [Salon, 9/9/1999]
Former Senator John Danforth (R-MO), the newly empaneled special counsel who will head a government investigation of the FBI’s actions that led up to the 1993 debacle at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco (see April 19, 1993 and September 7-8, 1999), says his investigation will answer “the dark questions” still pending six years later. “Was there a cover-up? Did the government kill people? How did the fire start? And was there shooting?” Danforth asks, ticking off the issues he hopes to resolve. “Those are questions that go to the basic integrity of government, not judgment calls.” Danforth says the investigation will focus primarily on the events of April 19, 1993, the final day in a 51-day standoff between the FBI and the Davidians, including allegations that FBI agents fired at the compound during that final assault and military personnel took part in the assault (see August 28, 1999). As a “special counsel,” Danforth can impanel a grand jury and seek federal charges. “I come into this with a totally open mind,” Danforth says, with Attorney General Janet Reno standing at his side. “I come into this with the notion that the chips should fall where they may. And that’s going to happen.” Congressional Republicans praise Danforth’s appointment, while President Clinton calls him honorable and intelligent, and says, “Based on what I know of him, it [Danforth’s selection] was a good move by the attorney general.” Reno says she will turn over future decisions on Danforth’s investigation to her deputy, Eric Holder, in the interests of impartiality. Danforth says he will use private-sector investigators rather than FBI agents to do the actual investigating. US Attorney Edward Dowd of St. Louis, a Democrat, will resign his position to join Danforth as his chief assistant. [Knight Ridder, 9/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999]
Richard Schwein, the former special agent in charge of the El Paso division of the FBI who was involved in the Branch Davidian siege of 1993 (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and April 19, 1993), says the bureau was worried about more than just the possibility that the Davidians might torch their own compound. Schwein recalls that the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) contacted former Davidians around the world (see Around 4:00 p.m. February 28, 1993). He says, “We were trying to find out as much as we could—what this was all about.” Schwein says the FBI feared an armed assault from the Davidians. “There was a concern they would burst out of the building shooting,” he says. “I know at one point, they intended to come out wired with explosives and set them off to kill FBI agents. We had a lot of concerns. We tried to plan for every eventuality.” [Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal, 9/12/1999]
Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) discloses that internal FBI documents that show information about the FBI’s use of incendiary tear-gas canisters during the 1993 Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), have been available in Justice Department files for years and were given to Congress no later than 1995. The FBI was embarrassed by recent revelations that its agents fired such canisters near the Davidian compound during the assault (see August 25, 1999 and After), though the bureau and the Justice Department both deny that the canisters had anything to do with the fires that consumed the compound and killed almost 80 Davidians. Two weeks ago, the Justice Department sent US Marshals to the FBI’s headquarters in Washington to seize infrared videotapes that contain references to the tear-gas rounds, but did not reveal that it contained FBI records in its own files regarding the use of those rounds. Attorney General Janet Reno ordered the seizure, saying she was angered by the revelations after spending six years denying the FBI ever used such incendiary devices. Reno says she did not see the internal FBI documents until two weeks ago. From the documents that have been made public, there is no indication that FBI officials explained to Reno or other Justice Department officials the potential dangers surrounding the use of such canisters (see April 17-18, 1993). A senior Justice Department official says the documents will likely be scrutinized by investigators with the Danforth inquiry (see September 7-8, 1999). Waxman, the ranking minority member of the House Oversight Committee, says he released the documents because the committee chairman, Dan Burton (R-IN), has said Reno failed to tell Congress about the incendiary canisters. Burton accused Reno of failing to inform Congress about the canisters after learning that an incomplete copy of a FBI lab report was sent to his committee in 1995 (see August 10, 1999 and After). [New York Times, 9/14/1999]
Tennessee and North Carolina white separatist and “common law” ideologue Peter Stern is charged with conspiring to defraud tax authorities with fake checks from the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994). Stern, who owes more than $96,000 in back taxes, is one of hundreds of “common law” proponents facing similar charges around the nation. Stern’s first attorney, Gerald Aurillo, forces a mistrial in the first court proceeding when he breaks down into a hysterical sobbing fit in the courtroom; Stern fires Aurillo and represents himself. A jury in Asheville, North Carolina, convicts Stern after only three hours of deliberations of fraud and attempting to pay off debts and back taxes with “Freemen” checks. Stern is also convicted of conspiracy, obstructing the Internal Revenue Service, and threatening to kidnap two federal judges, after he threatened the judges with letters informing them they would be “arrested” by “marshals” of his Franklin, Tennessee-based common-law “court” if they didn’t free another activist who was in prison. Stern faces 40 years or more in sentencing. Stern’s defense is that he thought the Freemen checks were legitimate financial instruments and that he had no intent to defraud anyone. Well-known attorney John Zwerling will handle Stern’s appeal, saying that he believes Stern was found “guilty by association” because of his connection with the Freemen. [Deseret News, 7/21/2000; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Franklin Press, 7/11/2001]
The Texas Rangers release a report to Congress that says they found spent cartridges from two different makes of sniper rifles carried by FBI agents during the final assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). The cartridges indicate that FBI agents may have fired shots at the compound during the final assault on the Davidian compound, an assertion the FBI has long denied. Officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) say that the cartridges may have come from shots their agents fired during the initial BATF raid on the compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Federal law enforcement officials say the cartridges were collected by FBI agents after they arrived in Waco (see March 1, 1993). [New York Times, 9/14/1999]
Special counsel John Danforth, heading the government’s probe into the 1993 Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and September 7-8, 1999), asks the judge presiding over a civil lawsuit filed by some of the Davidian survivors (see April 1995) for a delay in the suit’s proceedings. In a filing for Judge Walter Smith, Danforth explains that the government inquiry seeks to depose witnesses who will also testify in the civil suit, and wants to interview those witnesses before they testify for the lawsuit, saying: “It is my firm belief that our inquiry will benefit by interviewing witnesses prior to their preparation for testimony in a civil trial. Because a civil trial inherently involves advocacy, testimony tends to be very well-rehearsed and coordinated with the testimony of other witnesses.” Danforth wants to find out if the FBI deliberately covered up its use of incendiary gas grenades during the April 19, 1993 siege (see August 25, 1999 and After), and whether agents fired shots during the assault on the Davidian compound. One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys has volunteered to postpone taking depositions from Attorney General Janet Reno and two key FBI agents for two weeks, but is reluctant to delay the depositions for 30 days; another lawyer intends to resist the request completely. [Associated Press, 9/17/1999]
Richard Van Hazel and Troy Coe are arrested in Rochester Hills, Michigan, and charged with the attempted kidnapping and murder of an accountant who gave testimony in an Arizona case involving a chiropractor charged with income tax evasion. Van Hazel is a tax protester and white supremacist who was convicted in 1987 for mailing death threats to IRS agents and an African-American judge. He will later be sentenced to life in prison. [Anti-Defamation League, 2011]
An expert retained by a House committee looking into the events of the FBI assault that led to the destruction of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), says that the FBI fired gunshots during the assault. The FBI has said it fired no shots during the assault. The expert says that his examination of videotape taken during the final assault shows FBI agents did indeed fire shots into the compound. The expert’s testimony is taken up by the plaintiffs in a $675 million civil suit against the government (see April 1995), who will propose recreating aspects of the siege’s final hours. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/21/2000] Experts for the civil suit will come to a different conclusion, saying that the videotape shows sunlight reflecting off debris and not muzzle flashes (see May 10, 2000).
US Postal Inspection Service logo. [Source: Center for Regulatory Effectiveness]Special counsel John Danforth, heading the government’s probe into the 1993 Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and September 7-8, 1999), names a group of US postal inspectors to investigate claims that the FBI tried to cover up its use of incendiary devices during the final assault on the Davidian compound. Preferring not to use FBI agents to investigate allegations against the bureau, Danforth said from the outset that he would use investigators from outside the Justice Department. “My basic thought is, the FBI should not be investigating the FBI,” Danforth said. Reporters laughed when someone suggested—facetiously—that US Postal Service “cops” could conduct the investigation. Now Danforth is bringing aboard some 80 postal inspectors to look into the allegations. The use of postal inspectors may indicate Justice Department officials could be targeted by the probe. Postal Inspection Service spokesman Robert Bethel acknowledges the choice of postal inspectors may seem odd to Americans unfamiliar with the agency. “A lot of people don’t know what a postal inspector is,” he says. “If they hear of postal inspectors, they think, is that someone who inspects post offices?” Postal inspectors have been investigating federal crimes involving the mails since 1772, and often investigate crimes such as extortion, child pornography, and on occasion murder, if they involve Postal Service employees. “We’ve always been called the ‘silent service,’ because we go about our business and don’t seek publicity,” Bethel says. The specific inspectors have not yet been chosen. In 1996, postal inspectors helped FBI investigators look into the events of the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff (see August 31, 1992) and found evidence that an FBI official had obstructed justice. [All Points Broadcasting News, 10/2/1999]
Copies of FBI infrared surveillance tapes taken during the first hours of the FBI assault against the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), clearly show repeated bursts of rhythmic flashes from agents’ positions and from the compound; two experts hired by the surviving Davidians say the flashes must be gunfire. A third expert retained by the House Government Reform Committee, Carlos Ghigliotti, an expert in thermal imaging and videotape analysis, says he, too, believes the flashes to be gunfire. “The gunfire from the ground is there, without a doubt,” he says. FBI officials have long maintained that no agent fired a shot during either the 51-day standoff or during the final assault. Michael Caddell, the lead lawyer for the Davidians in their lawsuit against the government (see April 1995), says he has shown the tapes and the expert analysis to John Danforth, the former senator who is leading a government investigation into the FBI’s actions during the siege and the assault (see September 7-8, 1999). Caddell says his two experts are former Defense Department surveillance analysts. One of Caddell’s two experts also says the FBI’s infrared videotapes that have been released to the public, Congress, and the courts may have been altered. “There’s so much editing on this tape, it’s ridiculous,” says Steve Cain, an audio and video analysis expert who has worked with the Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service. Cain says his analysis is preliminary because he has not been granted access to the original tapes. But, he says, the tapes appear to have been erased. There are significant erasures during the 80-minute period before the compound began burning. Cain says: “It’s just like the 18-minute gap on the Watergate tape. That was erased six times by Rose Mary Woods (see November 21, 1973). That’s why we’re trying to get to the originals.” Cain also says that he believes images were inserted into the videotapes, perhaps from different video cameras. Caddell says, “I think at this point, it’s clear that the whole investigation, and particularly the fire investigation, was garbage in-garbage out.” The videotapes were used in a 1993 Treasury Department review of the siege (see Late September - October 1993) and as evidence in a 1994 criminal trial against some of the surviving Davidians (see January-February 1994), both of which concluded that the Davidians themselves set the fires that consumed the compound. [Associated Press, 10/6/1999; Dallas Morning News, 10/7/1999]
A former Army colonel tells a Dallas reporter that the FBI overheard Branch Davidian leader David Koresh ordering the fires that consumed the Davidian compound and killed almost 80 of Koresh’s followers (see April 19, 1993). For years, many have accused the FBI of causing the fires that culminated the April 19, 1993 assault on the Davidian compound. Now, Colonel Rodney Rawlings, a former military adviser, says that he was in the FBI monitoring room outside the compound on the day of the assault, and he and several FBI agents overheard Koresh give the orders to fire the compound. The FBI had surveillance “bugs” in several places inside the compound, but FBI and Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Janet Reno, have said that they did not know if Koresh ordered the fires. In recent weeks, the FBI has come under heavy criticism for having to admit that its agents fired incendiary tear gas rounds at a bunker near the compound during the assault (see August 25, 1999 and After). Rawlings tells the Dallas Morning News that as the Army’s senior liaison to the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), he was in the monitoring room during the assault. He says: “You could hear everything from the very beginning, as it was happening. Anyone who says you couldn’t at the time is being less than truthful.” Rawlings says the FBI surveillance bugs picked up Koresh’s orders to set the fires. Shortly afterwards, he says, the bugs picked up the sound of gunfire. The bugs then recorded Koresh declaring that God did not want him to die, and Koresh’s chief lieutenant, Steve Schneider, saying that Koresh “wasn’t going to get out of this.” Both Koresh and Schneider were later found dead in a room of the compound, both dead of gunshot wounds. FBI officials have previously testified that transmissions from the eavesdropping devices were too garbled to allow agents to hear discussions about spreading fuel and setting fires. Rawlings says that the FBI’s denials bother him “to no end. They’ve had the opportunity to say, ‘We knew.’ We’ve not gotten a straightforward answer.” [Reuters, 10/8/1999]
The FBI releases its report on what it calls “Project Megiddo,” an examination of what it calls “the potential for extremist criminal activity in the United States by individuals or domestic groups who attach special significance to the year 2000.” The report is released to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, but not to the public. A statement accompanying the report reads in part: “The threat posed by extremists as a result of perceived events associated with the year 2000 (Y2K) is very real. The volatile mix of apocalyptic religious and [New World Order] conspiracy theories (see February 4, 1999) may produce violent acts aimed at precipitating the end of the world as prophesied in the Bible.” The report is based on nine months of intelligence and data collection by the domestic terrorism unit of the FBI. Soon after its release, the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) will obtain a copy and release it on the Internet. The report’s executive summary notes that “Megiddo,” a hill in northern Israel, is the site of a number of Biblical-era battles, and the Hebrew word “armageddon” derives from a Hebrew phrase meaning “hill of Megiddo.” The Bible’s depiction of “Armageddon” is, the report states, “the assembly point in the apocalyptic setting of God’s final and conclusive battle against evil. The name ‘Megiddo’ is an apt title for a project that analyzes those who believe the year 2000 will usher in the end of the world and who are willing to perpetrate acts of violence to bring that end about.” While much of the media-fueled debate about the upcoming “end of the millennium” focuses on technological issues, such as the anticipated widespread disabling of computer networks and the like, the FBI report focuses more specifically on the religious connotations of the time as viewed by far-right “Christian Identity” (see 1960s and After) and related white supremacist, separatist, and militia organizations. The report, the summary states, “is intended to analyze the potential for extremist criminal activity in the United States by individuals or domestic extremist groups who profess an apocalyptic view of the millennium or attach special significance to the year 2000.” It is difficult to say what groups may pose a threat as 1999 comes to a close, the report states, as it is difficult to anticipate which groups will follow through on their rhetoric and which will not. Moreover, the report notes, many domestic extremist groups are not traditionally structured in a hierarchical fashion; the possibility of “lone wolf” strikes by individuals operating outside a militia or extremist group may in some cases outweigh the likelihood of violent assaults carried out by such groups. The report notes that the worst domestic terrorist event in US history, the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), was carried out by two “lone wolves,” Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. The report finds few indications of what it calls “specific threats to domestic security,” but focuses more on suspicious activities by a variety of militia groups who are arming themselves, stockpiling food, raising money through illegal means, and other actions which may serve as a warning of future violence. Problems caused by “Y2K glitches” such as power outages and computer failures may be interpreted by some extremist groups as the first actions of a government assault on the citizenry, the FBI warns, and may precipitate violent responses. [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 10/1999; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/20/1999; Washington Post, 10/31/1999] The right-wing news blog WorldNetDaily will accuse the FBI of issuing the report to “set up” militia groups as patsies for the government’s own terrorist activities (see December 9, 1999).
The special counsel’s office investigating the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993) asks for court-supervised tests to determine if flashes recorded by FBI infrared cameras during the final assault on the Davidian compound were made by gunshots fired by FBI agents (see October 7, 1999). The FBI has always insisted that its agents fired no shots during the assault. The Justice Department has refused similar requests from lawyers representing surviving Davidians in a lawsuit against the government (see April 1995). Justice Department officials say that such testing would be without critical data that the government has chosen to withhold under the rubric of national security. However, deputy special counsel Edward L. Dowd believes otherwise. In a letter to Judge Walter Smith, presiding over the civil suit, Dowd writes: “Both the trust of the public and the truth-seeking process are not best served by the course of events as they are unfolding. We propose therefore that the court supervise a neutral FLIR [forward-looking infrared] re-creation.” The Justice Department is facing growing criticism over what some perceive as its lack of cooperation in providing documents and other evidence relating to the Davidian siege and final assault. Even some FBI officials have privately complained that the department’s handling of the matter has further damaged the bureau’s credibility. Experts hired by lawyers in the suit have determined that the flashes captured by FBI cameras may well have been gunfire. Michael Caddell, lead lawyer for the Davidians in the civil suit, says that the special counsel’s request “forces the issue.” Caddell adds: “The procedure that’s been proposed is clearly designed to protect any legitimate security concerns by the FBI and the Department of Justice. They’ve taken away the one legitimate reason that they could have for refusing. Any refusal now is because they already know what the answer is going to be. I think that would be the most damning admission of liability they could possibly make. It’s clear now that the office of special counsel, the courts, and the plaintiffs are all interested in getting to the truth of what happened on April 19. The question that’s lingering out there is, is the government interested in getting at the truth?” FBI officials have offered to secretly conduct an examination of the FLIR videotapes for the special counsel’s investigation. [Dallas Morning News, 11/10/1999; Dallas Morning News, 11/16/1999] Smith will order the tests (see November 15, 1999).
US District Judge Walter Smith overrides Justice Department objections and orders independent field testing to help determine whether government agents fired at the Branch Davidian compound in the last hours of a 1993 siege (see April 19, 1993 and November 5, 1999). In a three-page ruling, Smith writes that he has been “persuaded” by arguments from Branch Davidian lawyers and the office of special counsel John Danforth that the tests are needed to resolve whether flashes of light recorded by FBI infrared cameras were caused by government gunfire. FBI officials have consistently denied allegations that any of their agents fired gunshots during the final assault. Flashes recorded by an airborne FBI infrared camera just before the compound began burning are inexplicable electronic “anomalies,” the FBI claims. Michael Caddell, the lead lawyer for the Davidians in their civil suit against the government (see April 1995), says: “It again demonstrates that Judge Smith wants to get at the truth. If they [the FBI] really believe that’s not gunfire on that video, then the government’s lawyers should embrace this test with open arms.” [Dallas Morning News, 11/16/1999] The special counsel’s office also requests the actual guns carried by FBI agents during the assault. Examination of the weapons may help determine if agents fired during the six-hour assault. [Associated Press, 11/16/1999] FBI officials have secretly offered to conduct private tests for Danforth’s investigators, though Justice Department lawyers have rejected a proposal from Caddell and the Branch Davidian lawyers for a joint public test. These actions, along with a warning from Justice Department lawyers that they intended to use national security exemptions to withhold data needed to ensure accurate public tests, impelled Danforth’s office to ask for the public tests. Smith rules, “The court is persuaded that one FLIR [infrared] test should be conducted, with participation and observation by the parties and the OSC [office of special counsel].” [Dallas Morning News, 11/16/1999]
Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles, both members of California’s San Joaquin Militia, are charged for plotting to blow up two 12 million gallon propane tanks in Elk Grove, California, along with a television tower and an electrical substation, in hopes of setting off a large-scale insurrection. The tanks are a few hundred yards from heavily traveled state Highway 99 and a half-mile from a subdivision. The FBI has dubbed the case the “Twin Sisters” trial, after the two’s nickname for the propane tanks. A threat assessment report by the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory estimates that, if successful, the explosion would have killed up to 12,000 people, set off widespread fires, and badly injured people within a five-mile radius of the explosion. Patterson has said he intended to use a fertilizer bomb similar to that used to destroy a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). A search of Patterson’s and Kiles’s homes reveals guns, ammunition, bomb chemicals, and methamphetamine ingredients. The San Joaquin Militia has been under observation by the Sacramento Joint Terrorism Task Force since 1996. The perpetrators called the propane tanks a “target of opportunity” that are susceptible to sabotage and, if destroyed, would cause a major disturbance and cause the government to declare martial law. The “Twin Sisters” plot is part of a larger conspiracy by militia groups to undermine and destabilize the federal government. Militia leader Donald Rudolph, also involved in the plot, will plead guilty to plotting to kill a judge, and will cooperate with the FBI in the investigation. Kiles’s son Jason Kiles tells a reporter: “My father ain’t no terrorist. I don’t care what they say.” Patterson and Kiles will receive 21-year prison terms for the threatened use of a weapon of mass destruction. Rudolph receives a five-year term. [Associated Press, 12/7/1999; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2009; FBI Sacramento Division, 2011]
Donald Beauregard, the head of a militia coalition known as the Southeastern States Alliance (SSA), is charged with conspiracy, providing materials for a terrorist act, and gun violations in connection with a plot to bomb energy facilities and cause power outages in Florida and Georgia. Beauregard became known in 1995, when he and his militia group, the Florida-based 77th Regiment Militia, claimed to have discovered a map printed on a box of Trix cereal depicting the United Nations takeover of the United States. Beauregard also issued statements threatening the federal government with terrorist acts during the FBI’s standoff with the Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996). During his tenure as the SSA’s leader, he developed a number of plans for terror attacks; unfortunately for him, the SSA is thoroughly infiltrated by Florida law enforcement. After pleading guilty to conspiracy and other charges, Beauregard will be sentenced to five years in federal prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2010]
Joseph Farah, the publisher of the right-wing news blog WorldNetDaily, blasts the FBI for issuing its “Project Megiddo” report, which warns of possible domestic terror activities centering on the transition into the “new millennium” at year’s end (see October 20, 1999). Farah calls the report “more than slanderous, bigoted, and inciteful,” and accuses the FBI of “set[ting] up a system of self-fulfilling prophecies that permits the government to scapegoat groups of people who are enticed into committing illegal acts or conspiring about them by agents provocateur.” Farah claims that his assertions are proven by his belief that the federal government carried out the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) to discredit the far right. “Remember this the next time you hear about a so-called ‘terrorist incident,’” Farah concludes. “And, tell your representatives and senators it’s time to rein in the mad bombers and provocateurs in our own government.” [WorldNetDaily, 12/9/1999]
Activists with the underground environmental group Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) set fire to the Oregon offices of the Boise Cascade Corporation, a paper manufacturer. A statement from ELF activists says the group started the fire with four buckets of diesel fuel and a kitchen timer. Boise Cascade has “ravaged the forests of the Pacific Northwest,” the group claims. The ELF statement comes with a similar statement from the Liberation Collective, which brings together environmental and animal rights activist groups under a common rubric. Liberation Collective spokesman Craig Rosebraugh (see December 20, 1998) says he receives “anonymous communications” from ELF and other groups. “I just pass that information along to the press and public,” he says. The Liberation Collective describes ELF as “an underground environmental organization that uses economic sabotage to end the exploitation and destruction of the natural environment and its inhabitants.” Because ELF, which is classified as a domestic terrorism organization, has taken credit for the blaze, the FBI will head up the investigation. [New York Times, 12/31/1999]
Richard Butler, the leader of the white supremacist organization Aryan Nations (see Early 1970s), is quoted in the Spokane Statesman-Review as saying: “The white man is now on trial. Hate laws are against him. No hate laws can be applied to a nonwhite. That makes the white man a third-class citizen, in my mind.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
Antonio Nucera, deputy chief of the SISMI center in Viale Pasteur in Rome and one of Italy’s foremost experts on WMD, telephones Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler and former SISMI agent. Nucera tells Martino of a SISMI intelligence asset working in the Niger Embassy in Rome who is in need of money and who can provide him with documents to sell. [Sunday Times (London), 8/1/2004; Financial Times, 8/2/2004; Il Giornale (Rome), 9/21/2004; La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005; Il Giornale (Rome), 11/6/2005] According to Martino, “SISMI wanted me to pass on the documents but they didn’t want anyone to know they had been involved.” [Sunday Times (London), 8/1/2004; Financial Times, 8/2/2004] Martino, who left the agency in 1999, has a long history of peddling information to other intelligence services in Europe, including France’s DGSE. He is weathering financial difficulties, and Nucera’s proposal may be a lucrative one. Nucera tells Martino about a longtime Italian “asset” in the Nigerien embassy in Rome, a woman of around 60 with a low-level position there. The woman will later be dubbed “La Signora” by the Italian press, and be identified as Laura Montini, the Nigerien ambassador’s assistant. Nucera suggests that Martino can possibly use her as SISMI had, paying her to pass on documents stolen or copied from the Nigerien embassy (see January 2, 2001) and March 2007). [London Times, 8/1/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 207]
Nashville, Tennessee, tax protester Rodney Lynn Randolph receives a four-year prison sentence on weapons charges after a search of his home revealed an arsenal of weapons that included a hand grenade, bomb-making materials, automatic weapons parts, a .50-caliber antitank weapon, 50 pounds of gunpowder, and 200,000 rounds of ammunition. Randolph was arrested during what should have been a routine traffic stop. He had previously ignored eviction papers, claiming that he would answer only to “the regent of the earth, that being YAHSHUA, son and servant of The Father,” and that he was a “sovereign nation” unaccountable to US law. [Nashville Scene, 12/31/1999; Anti-Defamation League, 2011]
A DEA government document later leaked to the press [Drug Enforcement Agency, 6/2001] suggests that a large Israeli spy ring starts penetrating the US from at least this time, if not earlier. This ring, which will later become popularly known as the “art student spy ring,” is later shown to have unusual connections to the events of 9/11. [Insight, 3/11/2002]
Byron Sage, the chief FBI negotiator during the Waco, Texas, siege that claimed the lives of almost 80 Branch Davidians (see April 19, 1993), now says the FBI’s strategy during the siege was wrong. “We played right into the hands of David Koresh,” the leader of the Branch Davidians, Sage tells a television interviewer. “He had an apocalyptic end in mind, and he used us to fulfill his own prophecy.” [San Antonio Express-News, 2/27/2000]
A newly released surveillance photograph taken during the FBI’s final assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), casts doubt on theories that FBI agents opened fire on the Davidians during the assault (see September 14, 1999, October 1999, October 7, 1999, November 5, 1999, and November 15, 1999). The photo is part of a batch submitted to the Danforth investigation (see September 7-8, 1999) and to Judge Walter Smith, who is presiding over the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Davidian survivors against the government (see April 1995). The photograph was taken on April 19, 1993, within seconds of the time when a flash appears on an infrared surveillance videotape at 11:24 a.m. Experts have claimed that such flashes indicate gunfire from FBI agents; however, no one is in the vicinity of the flash as shown in the photograph. Smith has ordered tests to be done to determine if the flashes on the videotapes are, indeed, gunfire. Lawyer Michael Caddell, speaking for the Davidians, says the photograph proves nothing: “Seeing one or two or 10 photographs doesn’t tell you a whole lot.” Two FBI planes were flying over the compound during the attack. One, an FBI Nightstalker, took infrared videotape of the scene and the other took still photographs on film. Until recently, the two had not been compared to one another. The infrared tapes show a tank destroying the back wall of the Davidians’ gymnasium just before 11:30 a.m.; at 11:24, the tape shows a flash off the right rear corner of the tank. The photo was taken almost at that same instance; no one can be seen in the photo, casting doubt on claims that someone was near the tank firing into the compound. Caddell notes that the photographs are not time-stamped, and the times of the photos must be estimated based on the amount of damage done to the gymnasium. “Being able to identify what time it is and whatever the precise moment when someone was firing from the rear of the tank is very suspect unless you’ve got a complete roll of film and you can see the entire sequence,” he says. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/12/2000; Associated Press, 1/13/2000]
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles two gun dealers, Henry S. McMahon and Karen Kilpatrick, who say they have endured threats of reprisal from federal officials after selling 223 guns to David Koresh, the Branch Davidian leader whose compound was destroyed by flames in a government assault (see April 19, 1993). McMahon, 37, and Kilpatrick, 42, were never charged with any crime, but they say government agents have threatened and intimidated them for seven years. They say they cannot hold down jobs, and live together in a federally subsidized apartment in a small Idaho town, surviving on government disability benefits. In 1997, the Justice Department rejected complaints they filed after finding no evidence of harassment or mistreatment. They tried to file a civil rights suit against the government, but could not pay for legal representation. They hope that the Danforth investigation (see July 21, 2000) will net them some government money. Both Kilpatrick and McMahon spent time at the Waco compound, and McMahon still has a Bible filled with handwritten notes he took during some of Koresh’s religious talks. McMahon says he never believed Koresh’s teachings: “I was there to sell David a gun,” he says.
BATF: No Evidence of Harassment - After the April 1993 debacle, the two claim that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) has persecuted them, ruining their reputations among their fellow gun dealers. BATF spokesman Jeff Roehm says their allegations have been investigated and discounted. “There was no finding that anyone behaved inappropriately and no agent was disciplined,” Roehm says. He adds that he is prohibited by law from responding to specific allegations. McMahon says they sleep on air mattresses and keep their belongings boxed up, ready to flee from “the feds” at a moment’s notice.
Sold Guns to Koresh - McMahon and Kilpatrick moved to Waco in 1990, because Texas gun laws make it easy for people like them to sell guns without regulatory interference. Koresh was one of their best customers. McMahon calls Koresh a gun collector, who stockpiled an armory of various weapons (see May 26, 1993) merely to resell them for profit, and not to mount an assault on government officials. It was a July 1992 visit to McMahon’s business by BATF agents (see June-July 1992) that helped spark the BATF assault on the compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). McMahon says he told the agents, Jimmy Ray Skinner and Davy Aguilera (see June-July 1992 and November 1992 - January 1993), that Koresh was an investor. He also says that he called Koresh during that visit, and Koresh invited the agents to the Waco compound, but the agents declined the invitation.
Left Texas before Raid - Later in 1992, McMahon and Kilpatrick quit the gun-selling business in Texas and moved back to their home state of Florida; they deny that the BATF visit had anything to do with their decision. After the February 1993 BATF raid, they called the BATF office in Pensacola, informed the agents there of their business dealings with Koresh, and, though the agents told them to stay quiet, were besieged by reporters who somehow found out about their connections with Koresh.
Protective Custody - The BATF placed them in protective custody and flew them to Oregon, where they stayed with McMahon’s parents for 22 days. McMahon now says the agents told him their lives were in danger from Davidians loyal to Koresh, and adds that he and Kilpatrick now wish they had “gone public from the very get go” and not gone to Oregon. On March 23, federal agents brought them to Waco and questioned them—McMahon says they were threatened, shouted at, and physically assaulted—and told them they would be charged with manufacturing illegal weapons. They refused to implicate Koresh in illegal gun deals. Instead, the agents released the two and they returned to Florida. The owner of the gun shop that employed them, Duke McCaa, refused to take them back, citing his fear of the BATF and his lawyer’s advice. McCaa now says he does not believe McMahon’s and Kilpatrick’s tales of threats and harassment by federal agents. Kilpatrick testified for the prosecution in the 1994 trial of 11 Davidians (see January-February 1994).
Speaking for Gun-Rights Organizations - For a time, the two became high-profile spokespersons for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun-rights groups; Soldier of Fortune magazine paid for them to go to Las Vegas, where they talked about Waco.
'They Owe Us' - The two moved to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in 1993, where they worked a variety of odd jobs, including night security at a wilderness school for troubled youth. In 1995, McMahon testified before a House committee about Waco. After the testimony, McMahon says employees at the school harassed him and Kilpatrick, forcing them to quit. He and Kilpatrick filed for bankruptcy in 1996. Currently, the two live on disability payments; in 1997, a judge determined that Kilpatrick suffered from an “anxiety-related disorder” related to her involvement with the BATF assault on the Waco compound; McMahon was found to be unable to relate to fellow coworkers or cope with the pressures of employment. McMahon blames his jobless status on Waco, saying: “I have no problem getting a job or working. After I’ve been there awhile people find out more of what I am. Once they find out about Waco, I’m branded. I shouldn’t have to carry around this baggage to explain myself to people.” As for their insistence on government compensation: “We are due some compensation from the government. That’s the bottom line,” McMahon says. “They owe us.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/29/2000]
Entity Tags: Henry S. McMahon, David Koresh, Branch Davidians, Duke McCaa, Davy Aguilera, US Department of Justice, Jimmy Ray Skinner, Karen Kilpatrick, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Jeff Roehm, National Rifle Association
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
FBI agents testifying for an upcoming civil case filed against the government by survivors of the Branch Davidian tragedy near Waco, Texas, in 1993 (see April 19, 1993) contradict the government’s official explanation for its decision to dismantle the Davidians’ gymnasium with armored vehicles, as laid out in a 1993 Justice Department report on the assault by FBI agents on the Davidian compound (see October 8, 1993). The Justice Department report gave two reasons why a Combat Engineering Vehicle (CEV)—described as a modified Patton tank—tore through the back of the Davidian compound, causing the gym to partially collapse. According to the report, the CEV ripped out the back wall to give the Davidians an escape route and to allow for the eventual insertion of tear gas. However, an FBI agent testifying in the trial says the orders were to use the CEV to find a way to get to a guard tower at the back of the compound, where supervisors believed the Davidians had retreated to escape the tear gas already fired inside the compound. The agent was a passenger in the CEV in question. “You were not ordered to breach the rear side of the building to create escape openings?” plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Caddell of Houston asks in the deposition. “You were ordered to clear this path to the tower, correct?” The passenger responds, “Correct.” Caddell then asks, “What was the purpose of this path if it was cleared, or when it was cleared?” The passenger responds, “To effectively deliver gas to that tower area of the building where it was believed we were not getting gas.” He denies that the CEV was attempting to demolish the building, but Caddell asks, “You don’t call that building destroyed?” The passenger acknowledges that “portions of it” were indeed destroyed. An FBI agent who piloted a surveillance plane over the Davidian compound testifies that other agents in the plane noted that the Davidians would have to flee the compound because it was being demolished. The pilot testifies: “I recall some remarks that were made while, you know, ‘People were going to have to get out pretty soon because it’s going to, you know, the things are being kind of, during the penetrations, being taken away from them.’” Caddell also questions another agent, who drove the CEV in question. Caddell focuses on his assertion that the FBI drastically sped up the execution of the plan, which was originally conceived to take place over two days instead of a matter of hours. The driver testifies, “It was another CEV that had basically, what had been done was a railroad, a stanchion of railroad was welded to the blade itself, extending three feet on either side of the blade, and it was going to be used to drive along the side of the building, basically cutting the studs away and the sheetrock away, so we could actually see into the front sides of the building in hopes that they would come out when they were in plain view at that point.” Caddell asks, “How would the gym have looked any different if you had attacked it with the railroad CEV as opposed to the CEV you had?” The driver responds: “I have no idea. We never got to that part of the plan. I mean, in hindsight, it could have very well been the exact same result. But my plan at that point was not to destroy the gymnasium.” The agent who was riding in the CEV says that the FBI could have easily and quickly demolished the entire compound if it wanted to: “I think in no time at all the collateral destruction that you see on the empty gymnasium area would be the entire compound. I mean these are large powerful vehicles.” The driver denies Caddell’s assertion that the holes made by the CEVs could have served as openings for agents on foot to enter the compound. “They had told them we weren’t going to make entry into the building, and we didn’t,” he says. The passenger testifies that he didn’t think the Davidians would see the FBI’s actions as hostile and begin firing weapons, which led to the FBI dramatically escalating its schedule of firing tear gas into the compound. “I was actually very surprised when we were shot at,” the CEV passenger testifies. “I mean, you’ve got to keep in mind we were here 50 some days and there had been no exchanges and no shooting. And I especially felt with the notification and the negotiators talking to them and explaining what was going on, that they would not shoot. Didn’t see where that would be the logical step.” [Cox News Service, 1/30/2000]
A Delta Force commando says he took an observer’s role during the April 1993 assault on the Branch Davidian compound (see April 19, 1993), watching the events unfold from the command post. The commando, now retired, was a sniper. Conflicting reports have surfaced about the role of Delta Force soldiers during the assault, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 80 Davidians (see August 28, 1999). The soldier, a former sergeant who is not publicly named, is questioned by lawyers representing a number of surviving Davidians and the family members of the slain in a civil lawsuit against the government (see April 1995). Two other Delta Forces members, both electronics technicians, have testified that they did not know where their colleague was during the assault, and said that he showed up hours after the siege ended and was tired, red-faced, and disheveled. The commando says he never got within a half-mile of the compound and did not carry a weapon that day. Lawyer Michael Caddell, representing the Davidians in the lawsuit, says he is troubled by conflicting testimony from the two Delta Force technicians and the retired sergeant, but adds that the issue may never be resolved. “The contradictions between his testimony and that of the previous two soldiers are striking and incredible,” he says. [CNN, 1/31/2000]
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