The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
A federal judge in North Carolina has denied a motion to set aside the 2011 jury conviction of a Bernard von NotHaus, an antigovernment activist who minted and sold his own silver coins in competition with U.S. government.
The protracted and complex legal case attracted widespread interest from gold and coin enthusiasts, as well as antigovernment activists and antigovernment “sovereign citizens” who say the government cannot control them.
The 47-page ruling, filed Nov. 10 by U.S. District Judge Richard Vorhees, came three years after von NotHaus’ conviction in Asheville, N.C., and the filing of assorted post-trial motions, including an attempted legal intervention by Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee, Inc. The ruling on those motions, all rejected as baseless by the court, clears the way for von NotHaus’ sentencing next month.
After his conviction, the man who described himself as the “architect of the free-money movement” argued that federal laws under which he was charged are unconstitutional and that federal prosecutors didn’t present sufficient evidence showing he intended to violate counterfeit laws.
The 70-year-old founder of the so-called “Liberty Dollar Operation” minted his own silver coins that looked very much like U.S. silver dollars, intending them to be used as “private barter currency” for goods and services in direct competition with the Federal Reserve. He sold them to distributors in a Pyramid-style operation, accepting Federal Reserve greenbacks for the purchases, reportedly putting more than $20 million Liberty Dollars into circulation before being arrested by the FBI on federal counterfeiting and conspiracy charges.
The post-conviction motions, the judge said, presented “a question as to the scope and extent” of Congress’ exclusive power to coin money.
Von NotHaus argued his conviction “infringes on the public’s right to utilize private bartering systems” and that it is not illegal or counterfeiting for a private individual to compete with the Federal Reserve.
The judge said he was not ruling that private barter systems are illegal. He also said that while the Constitution doesn’t give Congress the exclusive right to coin money, it does “expressly prohibit” states from doing that.
“It is undisputed that Congress has the ability to enact comprehensive laws concerning the coinage of money, the value of money, and counterfeiting,” the judge’s ruling said.
Further, the judge ruled that Congress does indeed possess the power to make it illegal for someone like von NotHaus to mint coins—whether they resemble U.S. coins or are of original design—if they are intended for use in monetary transactions.
Vorhees order said the jury that heard the evidence against von NotHaus found that his Liberty Dollars were counterfeit and that he intended to break federal law by minting and selling them.
After earlier interest by the Secret Service, the FBI opened a criminal investigation in 2004 after the Asheville, N.C., police department got a report the State Employees Credit Union that someone had attempt to “pass a coin that looked similar to United States coinage.”
The judge said the jury that heard the case “was in a position to evaluate the specific and fine points of the Liberty Dollars” before unanimously concluding they were counterfeit and that von NotHaus intended to break federal law.
“There is a heavy burden to prove that a jury’s verdict and findings of facts are wrong,” the judge said, denying von NotHaus’ motions to set aside his convictions or grant a new trial.
While operating the Royal Hawaiian Mint in the late 1990s, von NotHaus founded “The National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and Internal Revenue Code” or NORFED. To circumvent laws, he also started the Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu, where he called himself the “high priest.”
But it was his Liberty Dollar operation that captured national headlines as von NotHaus claimed NORFED would compete with the Federal Reserve System just like FedEx does with the U.S. Postal Service.
He later moved its headquarters to Evansville, Ind., Later, where he teamed with James W. Thomas, publisher of Media Bypass, a now-defunct magazine popular with antigovernment “Patriots,” sovereign citizens and extremists with anti-Semitic agendas.
NORFED issued and circulated five coins in one, five, ten, twenty and fifty dollar denominations. The Liberty Dollars, marked as “America’s inflation-proof currency,” were minted at Sunshine Minting, Inc. in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
While the coins actually contained silver, trial evidence showed von NotHaus and his operation would recall and re-mint the coins if the “average spot price” of that precious metal exceeded the face value of a particular coin.
“We never refer to the American Liberty as a coin,” von NotHaus said in an interview in 1999. “The word ‘coin’ is a government-controlled term. This is currency that is free from government control.”
“When the people own the money, they control the government,” he said. “When the government owns the money, it controls the people.”
The leader of the American Front—once facing 30 years in prison—received a sentence of just six-months last week for teaching firearms and combat skills to his neo-Nazi followers, described as a heavily-armed, white supremacy militia.
The sentencing of Marcus “Mark” Faella on Nov. 10 in Kissimmee, Fla., was an anti-climatic end to what had been the largest domestic terrorism case ever prosecuted in that state. He was convicted by a jury in September.
The judge denied a request from defense attorney Ronald L. Ecker II to reverse Faella’s conviction on the grounds the jury was prejudiced by a “political flier” showing masked American Front members posing with assault weapons and a Molotov cocktail.
Faella, 41, likely will be released from jail within four months, but he will serve two years of “community control” with 24-hour electronic monitoring and 10 years probation, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
The neo-Nazi leader, his wife, Patricia, and 11 other members of the American Front were arrested in May 2012 after police raided what court documents described as a fortified training compound on 10-acres owned by the couple near St. Cloud, Fla.
The arrests came after police raided what court documents described as a fortified compound near St. Cloud, Fla., where Faella and his wife, Patricia, 39, were accused of conducting illegal paramilitary training, attempting to shoot into an occupied dwelling and prejudice while committing a crime. Some of the combat training, authorities said, was carried out by an American Front member who was a military reservist from Missouri.
But, for reasons that have never been fully explained, the case began to fall apart shortly after the handcuffs were slapped on the suspects. Last April, prosecutors moved to dismiss charges against nine of the American Front members. The FBI said it was a state case, while local authorities said it was a federal investigation. One apparent weakness in the prosecution’s case involved a surveillance video released to defense attorneys who said the tape didn’t show any crimes being committed.
A judge in Kansas has ordered a mental competency evaluation for Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., a former neo-Nazi and KKK leader accused of assassinating three people last April at two Jewish community facilities in Kansas.
Johnson County District Judge Kelly Ryan ordered the evaluation Wednesday at the request of defense attorneys who filed the motion just before a planned preliminary hearing for Miller, who is also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, the Kansas City Star reported in today’s editions.
The mental exam will attempt to determine if Miller, 73, of Aurora, Mo., is competent to aid in his own defense if the death-penalty case proceeds to a jury trial. If he’s found mentally incompetent, he will be sent to the Larned State Hospital in Kansas and could be held there indefinitely or until he is found competent, the newspaper reports.
The defense request for the competency examination came Wednesday as prosecutors were ready to present probable cause evidence against Miller in an attempt to convince the court there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
After postponing that hearing, the judge scheduled a Dec. 18 hearing to discuss results of the competency evaluation. The delay prompted an outburst from Miller who said he wanted a speedy trial, the newspaper reported.
“Too long. Way too long,” Miller said in court. “I don’t want it drawn out.”
Miller is charged with capital murder for the gunshot killings of Terri LaManno, 53, William Lewis Corporon, 69, and Reat Griffin Underwood, 14. If convicted, the 73-year-old life-long racist faces the death penalty.
Miller, an avowed anti-Semite, mistakenly thought he was shooting Jews when, in fact, all three victims were Christians.
After the shootings, the FBI searched Miller’s home and found a copy of Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, three boxes of ammunition, a red t-shirt with a swastika symbol and a file folder titled, “Going underground and declaring war against the government.”
He also faces three counts of attempted first-degree murder for allegedly shooting at three other people during the gun rampage on April 13 outside the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom care center in Overland Park, Kansas. In addition, he is charged with aggravated assault and discharging a firearm into an occupied building.
Miller reportedly is gravely ill with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Earlier this year he reportedly told fellow racist Craig Cobb that he has “one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel.”
Gunshots were fired today at a mosque in Coachella, Calif., about 120 miles east of Los Angeles, but no one was injured, authorities reported.
Four people were praying inside the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley mosque when shots were fired about 5 a.m., striking the building and a car parked outside, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Andrew Shouse told the Desert Sun newspaper.
“A reasonable person would believe when a mosque is targeted, a hate crime may be occurring,” the sheriff’s official said at the scene of the shooting.
Salah Salah, a member of the mosque’s board, expressed concern over the shooting and the initial lack of a suspect.
“Somebody drunk? Something crazy? Nothing ever happened here before,” Salah told the newspaper, adding: “We are concerned about our safety, our security.”
The 16-year-old mosque has about 90 members.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, has asked the FBI to investigate.
“Any time shots are fired at a house of worship, the FBI should offer its resources to local authorities to help determine whether or not there was a bias motive for the attack,” CAIR chapter executive director Hussam Ayloush said.
When ATF agents arrested Kevin “K.C.” Massey III at a Brownsville-area hotel last week on charges that he had been illegally carrying weapons while leading border-militia patrols in Texas, they found more in his hotel room than just guns and ammo. There was also a container of ammonium nitrate and fuel—a potent bomb in the making.
According to an inventory of items taken during Massey’s arrest, an “ammo box filled with ammonium nitrate (suspected) and fuel” was found in the room, which participants at Camp LoneStar—the border-militia operation at which Massey had been dubbed a “commander”—had described as a place rented out by the camp as “a place to take a shower and get a good night’s rest.”
As the San Antonio Express-News noted in a report on the arrest, ammonium nitrate, which can be purchased as a farm fertilizer, can make a potent explosion when mixed with diesel fuel and detonated. It was the explosive Timothy McVeigh used in his 1995 terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
A little over 22 years ago, shooting broke out on a lonely Idaho mountaintop known as Ruby Ridge. The violence left a U.S. marshal and a 14-year-old boy dead, led to the death of the boy’s mother in the 11-day standoff that followed, and became, in the end, a seminal lesson in how law enforcement should not act in such situations.
Earlier this week, Retro Report, a critically acclaimed video documentary series that is distributed by The New York Times, released a thoughtful piece re-examining the 1992 FBI siege of a cabin inhabited by white supremacist Randy Weaver and his family. In the aftermath of that siege, which helped spark the militia movement of the 1990s, Weaver and another man who was in the cabin were acquitted of the murder of Marshal William Degan, and the federal government ultimately paid the surviving Weavers $3.1 million to settle their countervailing legal claims.
The film features Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center and editor of its investigative magazine, Intelligence Report. “The Ruby Ridge standoff became a kind of founding myth of the radical right,” Potok says in the film. “It not only made the government look bad, it was bad. People, whatever views they had, whatever illegal activities they had [engaged in], should not be shot down by government snipers when they are not actively threatening the life of somebody.”
Editors’ Note: Updates with details of Frein’s arraignment.
Eric Matthew Frein, the 31-year-old antigovernment survivalist and accused cop-killer, was arraigned today on murder and other charges in Hawley, Pa., after a 48-day massive manhunt in rural Pennsylvania ended yesterday with his capture.
Frein was restrained in the Pike County District Courtroom in the very handcuffs once used by the Pennsylvania state trooper he is accused of shooting. Authorities slapped those cuffs on him immediately after his arrest and drove him away in the slain officer’s car to the state police barracks where the ambush occurred on Sept. 12.
As Frein was led to the courtroom today–his hair slicked back with a bloody cut on his nose–a crowd of about 150 gathered and shouted, “You’re a coward,” and “Rot in hell,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
With Frein’s hands bound in the handcuffs that once belonged to slain State Police Cpl. Bryon Dickson, another state trooper turned the pages of the murder complaint, which Frein appeared to read intensely, the newspaper reported.
Frein, apparently caught off guard by deputy U.S. marshals, was arrested without a shot fired near an abandoned hangar at Birchwood-Pocono Airpark in Monroe County, Pa., according to several media accounts.
The elusive fugitive, placed on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List last month, was the object of one of the most intense manhunts in modern times–an undertaking now estimated to have cost $10 million. The search for the suspect draped a cloak of fear across assorted Pocono communities resulting in the closure of schools and the cancellation of many activities, including hunting and Halloween trick-or-treating.
While his motivation isn’t clear, Frein was a skilled survivalist and war re-enactment buff accused of harboring a deep-seated hatred of police.
For the past seven weeks, more than 1,000 law enforcement officers combed the dense woods of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains for the Frein following the ambush shooting of Cpl. Byron Dickson, 38, and the wounding of Trooper Alex Douglass, 31, at the Pennsylvania State Police Blooming Grove Barracks in Pike County.
Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin told reporters late Thursday that Frein would be charged with murder, homicide of a law enforcement officer, attempted murder and possession of weapons of mass destruction. That latter charge apparently relates to assembled pipe bombs found during the manhunt. The prosecutor also said he would seek the death penalty, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Frein’s capture came just before dark Thursday, when the federal marshals spotted a man matching the fugitive’s description in a field, appearing to be unarmed, yards from the hangar, the Express-Times newspaper reported.
“They ordered him to surrender, to get down on his knees and raise his hands, which he did,” Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan told the newspaper.
There were other reports, later confirmed by authorities, that a rifle and a handgun were found in the hanger where Frein apparently was seeking refuge from cold and wet fall weather. Frein appeared to be in good condition, not requiring any medical attention, Noonan told the Express-Times.
“He looked fairly healthy, healthier than I would have expected,” he said.
A chance encounter earlier this summer with a Border Patrol officer along the Rio Grande has become a disastrous event for the vigilantes prowling the Texas border at the militia encampment dubbed Camp LoneStar.
Two of the militiamen, including camp leader Kevin “K.C.” Massey III, now face federal felony weapons charges as a result of the encounter. Massey was arrested on Monday, while a second militiaman, John Frederick Foerster, was arrested on Tuesday. Both are charged with being felons in possession of a weapon.
A group of Border Patrol officers were in pursuit of several illegal border crossers in the early morning hours of Aug. 29 when one of the officers, having lost sight of the fugitives, came upon Foerster, who was standing in the brush holding a weapon. According to the criminal complaint, the agent fired four shots at Foerster and missed; Foerster threw down his gun and surrendered.
While the officers were processing information with Foerster, Massey and another Camp LoneStar participant arrived to vouch for Foerster, carrying weapons. Massey had an AK-47 rifle and a .45 caliber handgun.
According to Massey’s account of the incident on Facebook, Border Patrol officers asked the men to store their guns (as well as a GoPro video camera) in a Patrol vehicle. But when the officers wrapped up their work, they insisted on keeping the guns and the camera as part of their investigation.
The encounter occurred on the private property owned by Cuban “Rusty” Monsees where the Camp LoneStar encampment is set up, and so no arrests were made at the time. However, it shortly emerged that Foerster was in fact a felon; Massey, as federal agents would later report, also had been convicted of a felony in 1988.
On Monday, ATF agents swooped in and arrested Massey at a hotel in Brownsville, and then arrested Foerster on Tuesday.
The arrests set off a round of paranoia among their fellow militiamen. Massey’s “superior” at Camp LoneStar, Archie Seals, ranted on Facebook about how the arrests represent government oppression of their citizen-vigilante efforts:
Ok, I had been thinking for a while, “Are we doing any good here”? Now I know we are, and we are stepping on someone toes. Listen up all Feds that are monitoring, you have put my #2 in a cell illegally thinking it would shut us up and down. Guess what??? It didn’t work. We are still open for business, because, “This is what we do”. If anything, you made us stronger and more determined. When you take me in on some bs, another has been chosen to take over, then another, and another. We are Camp LoneStar and we are going no where. Now, I need every possible BOG immediately. Let’s show these feds that we only will grow stronger. Who will now join me and who will send support for the camp and for KC??? We need supplies here and KC needs funds for bond and lawyer.
Fellow “Patriot” Gary Hunt, evidently familiar with the details of Massey’s arrest, posted angrily at his blog:
These occurrences … should provide adequate warning to patriots, especially those who have a felony record, that there is a concerted effort on the part of government to find cause to bring charges against you and take your guns away. They also provide insight into the tactics that the government is using to cull the patriot community of as many as they can, reducing the remaining numbers, and intimidating those who remain.
Massey’s friends at the Secure Our Border organization changed the cover photo of their Facebook page to one featuring Massey’s portrait, accompanied by the legend: “Taken by the ATF for the crime of proving that the border can be secured by a few American Patriots.”
Two members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) have been charged in the kidnapping and murder of another member of that violent, racist gang.
Lisa Gibby, 41, and Dalton Clayton, 21, were indicted on capital murder by terroristic threat in Grayson County, Texas, and may face the death penalty if convicted, KTEN-TV in Denison reported over the weekend.
The two are charged in the death Albert Duane Parker, also an ABT member, whose body was found on May 21 in a field east of Sherman, Texas. The indictment alleges Gibby and Clayton killed Parker by “stabbing him with a knife or sharp bladed object.” There is no mention of motive in the charging document.
“The victim was kidnapped before he was killed,” Joe Brown, Grayson County District Attorney, told the television station. “We’re working through the evidence, but we certainly know the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas is involved in this case.”
Brown said investigators are exploring several possible motives for the killing. “Significantly, we don’t have to prove motive. We don’t have to prove why it happened.”
When the murder indictment was filed on Friday, Gibby and Dalton were already jailed on drug and weapons charges. Their previous criminal history, combined with allegedly kidnapping Parker before killing him, make them candidates for the death penalty.
Before his death, Parker lived in what neighbors described as a known “drug house” in Denison that is now boarded up, KTEN reported.
“Given his lifestyle, I don’t know that it’s a surprise, but it is absolutely tragic,” Amy Timberlake, a neighbor of Parker’s, told the station.
It is the latest in a string of murders and other violent crimes attributed to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas—labeled one of the nation’s most violent, racist gangs, operating in and outside of Texas prisons. ABT has been blamed for multiple murders, robberies, arsons and kidnappings, along with extensive narcotics trafficking and other crimes.
In late September, Nicholas Ryan Acree, 33, and Charles James Garrett Jr., 30, both of Fort Worth and both members of ABT, were charged in Mansfield, Texas, with murdering a fellow gang member, Bryan A. Childers, 39, also of Fort Worth. He has not been seen since May 29 when he was reported missing by his family.
Authorities aren’t saying if the new murder cases have any connection with a massive federal prosecution brought two years ago, resulting in guilty pleas and convictions of 73 ranking ABT members in five federal jurisdictions. In federal court in Houston, 36 ABT leaders have pleaded guilty this year.
Yet another murder is being attributed to the dangerous white supremacist gang known as the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT). But in this case, the alleged victim’s body has not been found.
Nicholas Ryan Acree, 33, and Charles James Garrett Jr., 30, both members of ABT, are being held on murder charges in jail in Mansfield, Texas, authorities say. Bond has been set for each of them at $75,000.
The two suspects, both arrested last Tuesday by Fort Worth police, are suspects in the disappearance of Bryan A. Childers, 39, also of Fort Worth, who has not been seen since May 29, when he was reported missing by his family, according to police.
As members of ABT, the suspects belong to one of the nation’s most violent, racist gangs, operating in and outside of Texas prisons. ABT has been blamed for multiple murders, robberies, arsons and kidnappings, along with extensive narcotics trafficking and other crimes.
Authorities aren’t saying if the Fort Worth case has any connection to the massive federal prosecution brought two years ago, resulting in guilty pleas and convictions of 73 ranking ABT members in five federal jurisdictions. In federal court in Houston, 36 ABT leaders have pleaded guilty this year, with most of those defendants scheduled to be sentenced next month.
Justice Department officials said in August that those cases “decimated” the ABT leadership. At about that same time, Fort Worth detectives began investigating Childers’ disappearance as a homicide after receiving information he “had been killed at a residence” in Fort Worth.
After Acree’s arrest last week, “he admitted to participating in the murder of the victim and also provided detailed information that corroborated information learned [by detectives] while interviewing Garrett and other individuals associated with this case,” police said Friday in a press release.
Since the two arrests, police have searched a residence in Fort Worth and a second in Haltom City, Texas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in Friday’s editions.
Evidence discovered at those residences “was consistent with the information given to detectives by Acree and Garrett,” but police didn’t disclose the specifics, the newspaper reported.
Police also aren’t saying if they have any clues as to the whereabouts of Childers’ body, which still has not been found.
Acree and Garrett, charged in August with the aggravated kidnapping and stabbing of fellow gang member Lovick Stikeleather, were out on bail in that gang-infighting case when they were arrested in the Childers disappearance.
Two other ABT members, James Byrd, 44, and Michael Young, 47, are also charged in the Stikeleather assault and are in federal custody, the Fort Worth newspaper reported.