Bill White is a voluble and vicious Internet gossip who is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but always ready to print just about anything that comes into his head. He once was a left-wing anarchist who promoted drugs, homosexuality, bombs and violent anti-racism. But around the turn of the millennium, he swung violently to the right, as reflected in his Overthrow.com website and its "Libertarian Socialist News" service, which was for several years the second most popular racist site on the Internet. After a stint with another neo-Nazi group, White set up his own American National Socialist Workers Party in 2006. In April 2010, White was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for making threats against his perceived enemies through the Internet, the telephone and the mail. His American National Socialist Workers Party collapsed in the wake of his legal troubles.
In His Own Words
"Lynch the Jena 6. If these niggers are released or acquitted, we will find out where they live and make sure that white activists and white citizens in Louisiana know it, we'll mail directions to their homes to every white man in Louisiana if we have to in order to find someone willing to deliver justice."
— Overthrow.com website, 2007
"Sometimes you just have to murder blacks — and, frankly, the killing needs to start with the black leaders and NAACP activists… . I know where my local NAACP ‘leaders' live — do you?"
— Overthrow.com, 2007
"We have no intention of removing Mr. Pitts' personal information. Frankly, if some loony took the info and killed him, I wouldn't shed a tear. That also goes for your whole newsroom."
— Response to a 2007 request by a Miami Herald editor asking that White remove the home address of black columnist Leonard Pitts from his website
"Kill this Nigger?"
— Headline for 2008 article about then-presidential candidate Barack Obama who was depicted in the middle of a rifle scope on the cover of White's American National Socialist Workers Party's magazine
In August 2004, White was convicted of assaulting a woman when she was handing out fliers that identified him as a neo-Nazi landlord. During the court proceedings, White cursed at the woman from the witness stand and was held in contempt of court by the judge. In December 2009, a federal jury found White guilty of threatening several people through intimidating phone calls and internet postings. He was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison at an April 2010 hearing. In January 2011, White was found guilty of using his website to encourage violence against a jury foreman in the trial of another white supremacist, Matt Hale. In April 2011, a federal judge threw out the conviction related to the jury foreman, citing White’s First Amendment rights.
White says he got interested in politics early, becoming a "utopian anarchist" in junior high school, reading Freud and Marx at age 13, and putting out his first issue of the Utopian Anarchist Party (its symbol was a black fist on a red background) newsletter the next year. Among other things, he railed against juvenile psychiatry, writing later that he had been subjected to a series of psychiatric tests as a youth in which he routinely scored high for paranoia and aggressiveness. White has an extensive juvenile record, including, by his own account, some 22 arrests between ages 15 and 19 for "assault, weapons, explosives, property destruction, graffiti and use of false identification." He also says he served several months in jail after attacking police officers when he was 19.
In 1996, White became one of the first to use the Internet to harass his enemies. By then a student at the University of Maryland, White heard gossip about a certain teenage girl who was supposedly being abused by her mother. In a pattern of recklessness that would continue well into the late 2000s, White didn't hesitate to go public, posting the phone number of the girl's mother to friends along with the suggestion that they harass her with calls. At the same time, White remained a spokesman for his Utopian Anarchist Party while in college and loudly proclaimed his left-wing views, including his admiration for Marx and one-time black nationalist Malcolm X. After the jail visit occasioned by his tussle with police, White, in a ListServ E-mail, trumpeted "all the bomb threats and attacks on schools recently. Over 200 in the area. … I don't think I need to elaborate."
Throughout this period, White was becoming a Web developer, building his own sites on the Internet. In late 1997, just before a failed run as an anarchist for the Montgomery County (Md.) Board of Education, he built Overthrow.com. Back then, however, it wasn't a Nazi propaganda center. Instead, it featured links to the Green Panthers, an Ohio pro-marijuana group that wanted to create a "stoner homeland"; to Anti-Racist Action, a group that likes to physically confront neo-Nazis and others on the radical right; to the Revolutionary Workers Party, a Trotskyist group; and to the so-called Lesbian Avengers. The site also included recipes for an array of do-it-yourself synthetic drugs and bombs.
In 1999 and 2000, White has said he became an official of white nationalist Pat Buchanan's Reform Party presidential campaign and that of a local candidate for the right-wing Constitution Party. His website began to reflect the wild swing in White's politics. For six months starting in late 2001, he was also a correspondent for the online edition of Pravda, the old Soviet publication that by then had taken on a strong right-wing flavor. He began to rail endlessly about "the Jews" and also to write extensively about the internal politics of many American neo-Nazi groups, eventually establishing himself as the chief gossipmonger of the movement.
In 2004, White turned his energies to building a real estate empire in his new hometown of Roanoke, Va., buying up houses and apartment buildings in a largely black neighborhood. Unfortunately for him, he found himself facing Erica Hardwick-Hoesch, a former love interest of White's (although she denied she had ever had a sexual relationship with White and mocked him publicly) who had renounced racism and begun working with One People's Project, an anti-racist group. That summer, she passed out fliers at some of the rental properties White had purchased. Targeting White, they were entitled "Meet Your Local Racist." White, spotting Erica passing out the fliers on his property, screeched to a halt, ran up two flights of stairs, and punched her in the head. Ultimately, he was convicted of assault and fined $100. He was also fined $250 for contempt of court after losing his temper on the stand and screaming at Hardwick-Hoesch, who was herself convicted of trespassing and fined $100.
In the coming months and years, White would build up a real estate empire under the aegis of his White Homes and Land, LLC. He called this his "ghetto beautification project." Buying up distressed properties, White began to improve them, raise rents and, often, boot out original residents who could no longer afford to stay. He refused to accept Section 8 government vouchers. At the same time, White endlessly insulted his clients, writing publicly about their alleged drug use, criminal records, prostitution and so on. Throughout, he slandered African Americans as "niggers," "nig-rats" "vermin" and worse. Some of the victimized tenants — White often had no proof of his accusations — sought help from the local Legal Aid Society, which jousted with White in court repeatedly in 2004 and 2005. (White had routinely called police on invited guests if their hosts were behind on their rent, calling them trespassers.) In complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, tenants also claimed White walked around their neighborhood armed with a shotgun and tried to intimidate them by saying the Klan was coming to "regulate" the area. "I was unable to sleep at night," one woman wrote. "He forced people to move because they were afraid of what he might do."
Toward the middle of 2005, with his real estate business apparently thriving, White began to move even more into the neo-Nazi world. On June 25, he joined a major rally at a Revolutionary War battlefield in Yorktown, Va., hosted by the National Socialist Movement (NSM). At the time, NSM was rapidly growing into the largest neo-Nazi group in America, thanks mainly to defections from the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group White had long criticized. At the rally was NSM leader Jeff Schoep, along with white supremacists from various Klan and racist skinhead groups. But it was White, drawing attention with his violently acerbic style, who wound up being quoted as NSM spokesman. Upon his return to Roanoke, Schoep, apparently impressed by White, announced that White had joined the group and would be leader of its new Roanoke chapter. (The chapter's membership was limited to White.) White also officially became NSM's national spokesman.
On Oct. 16, 2005, White led an NSM rally that was supposed to kick off a provocative neo-Nazi march "against crime" through a poor, black neighborhood of Toledo, Ohio. But the speeches of White and others were so incendiary that a crowd of neighborhood residents and anti-racists began to swell threateningly, and police ushered the white supremacists away, saying a riot was imminent. And it was. As White and the other neo-Nazis were whisked off, the crowd attacked police, police vehicles, and local buildings. The results, from the point of view of NSM, could hardly have been better. The violence made every network TV news show that night, along with reports of more than 100 rioters' arrests. Crowed Schoep: "The Negro beasts proved our point for us." Thrilled with the attention, White and the NSM repeated the tactic. On Dec. 10, the group returned to Toledo. The police were far better prepared this time and held the violence to a minimum. But the NSM kept going, taking its show to Orlando, Fla., where members held another "march against black crime" on Feb. 5, 2006.
That summer, an internal dispute began to tear apart the NSM. The wife of one of the group's original founders, Clifford Herrington, had long been a leader of the so-called "Joy of Satan Ministries," and as this news leaked out, it provoked widespread ridicule and attacks. Some of the most heated came from proponents of the theology of Christian Identity, which generally claims that Jews are the biological descendants of Satan and people of color are soulless beings who were never in the Garden of Eden. To these men, Satan was an enemy to be taken seriously. In July, White wrote a commentary in which he argued that he was "much more bothered and offended by the reaction from various Christian Identity adherents than I am by anything Mrs. Herrington has to say." He went on to call Identity theology "stupid" and "harmful to the white nationalist movement" and to suggest that its adherents foolishly relied on the Old Testament, a Jewish document "Judaized white people."
That was apparently too much for Schoep, who told White he was suspended from his NSM post. White responded typically, "resigning" from NSM even as Schoep said that he was being ejected permanently, and going on to form his own new neo-Nazi group — the American National Socialist Workers Party (ANSWP). Given White's chronic inability to maintain interpersonal relationships, ANSWP seemed doomed to failure, or at least to essentially be an organization that existed only in cyberspace. But by the end of 2007, the group was actually claiming 30 chapters, and included some former leading activists from the NSM. Still, ANSWP's main purpose seemed to have been acting as a springboard for White, who remained very much a creature of the Internet despite occasionally joining neo-Nazi rallies.
But White's racist vitriol never ends. In 2007, White went into a rage when Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts wrote a column that White didn't like on the murder of a white couple in Tennessee. White posted several attacks on Pitts, who he called a "nigger," and also Pitts' home address. He posted an attack on the Jena 6, six black teens from Jena, La., who came to national attention in 2007 because of their treatment by local law enforcement authorities. White called for their lynching and posted the home addresses of most of them, causing Louisiana's governor to order special security details. Closer to home, White took on the entire editorial staff of The Roanoke Times, which had written articles about White's business and his racist beliefs, printing names, addresses, personal information and even the suggestion that his supporters crash the wedding of the niece of an editor he particularly despised — a "Jew-loving piece of shit," as he called her.
In October 2008, White's threats finally got him into trouble. White was arrested, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Bondurant, reportedly because he had "threatened use of force" against the foreman of the Chicago jury that convicted Matt Hale, leader of the white supremacist World Church of the Creator, in 2004 for threatening a federal judge. (Hale is now serving a 40-year prison term.) A week earlier, on Sept. 11, FBI agents with a search warrant raided a Roanoke apartment and seized computer equipment that supported White's Overthrow.com website, where his comments about the juror were originally posted. An affidavit backing the search warrant said officials were seeking evidence of White's "threatening Hale juror A." Overthrow.com has been down ever since.
In his posting, White did not directly propose violence against the Chicago juror, but he blamed the juror for Hale’s long sentence and said the conviction was wrongful. After his arrest, White was held without bail. While he was in custody, he was indicted in Roanoke on unrelated charges. A judge dismissed the Chicago case in July 2009, though it was revived on appeal the following year, after concluding that White's actions were protected by the First Amendment. White was then transferred to a holding facility in Roanoke to await trial in that case. A judge there granted him bail after a psychiatrist who evaluated White said that he doesn't pose an imminent threat to the community. White made bail, but within days was returned to prison after prosecutors objected.
White was charged in the Roanoke indictment with multiple counts of threatening people online, by E-mail and by telephone, as well as attempting to prevent court testimony through threatening letters sent to black tenants in a housing dispute. The government contends that, among other things, White wrote that Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel "should be afraid to walk out his front door" because of his "Holocaust lies." He allegedly said that Canadian civil rights lawyer Richard Warman "deserves to be killed," and if Leonard Pitts, an African-American Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist were killed, "I wouldn't shed a tear." White also wrote that if he had the time, he could begin "picking off" the staff of the Intelligence Report, the quarterly magazine published by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On Dec. 18, 2009, after an eight-day trial in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, Va., a federal jury found White guilty of threatening a Citibank employee, intimidating tenants of a Virginia Beach, Va., apartment complex, threatening a University of Delaware administrator and threatening a Canadian human rights lawyer. He was acquitted of threatening the Citibank employee with the intent to extort, threatening Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts and threatening a New Jersey mayor. In February, one of the charges relating to White’s threatening Canadian human rights lawyer Richard Warman was dropped by U.S. District Judge James Turk.
"The court finds that there is no substantial evidence which would permit any rational trier of fact to find the defendant guilty," Turk wrote in an opinion. Turk pointed to the fact that the threat against Warman was not communicated directly, but rather was posted on the internet.
Turk sentenced White to 2 ½ years in prison at an April 2010 hearing. White received 30 months for each of three counts, to be served concurrently with credit for time served. The judge also imposed three years of supervised release. White was also barred from posting information online or using the Internet for a job or hobby.
According to The Roanoke Times, Turk said he didn’t often sentence defendants at the upper end of federal guidelines but thought White deserved the lengthier sentence for terrorizing some of his victims. The newspaper quoted Turk telling White that upon his release from prison, "You can have any thoughts you want to have, but you ought to keep them to yourself."
In 2010, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the 2009 decision that White's publishing of personal material about a jury foreman on his website was protected by the First Amendment, finding that a jury should hear the case. In early January 2011, an all-white jury in Chicago found White guilty of using his website to encourage violence against the jury foreman, Mark Hoffman (Hoffman presided over the jury that convicted another white supremacist, Matt Hale, in 2004). Federal prosecutors said White had threatened Hoffman when he listed personal information about the juror on his website and wrote that Hoffman "played a leading role in inciting both the conviction and the harsh sentence that followed." In his post, White did not directly propose violence against Hoffman. The jury found that even though White didn't call for a specific attack on "Hale juror A," that didn't matter in the context of other postings on the site.
Hoffman's photo was posted on White's Overthrow.com site next to his address, telephone number and other personal information, including his sexual orientation. White's posting called Hoffman a "gay, Jewish anti-racist." Hoffman, a former associate dean at Northwestern University, was never directly threatened with physical violence, but he told The Sun-Times in Chicago he had received ominous telephone calls afterward asking about his association with the Hale trial. He also got text messages that read, "sodomize Obama" and "cremate jews [sic]."
On April 20, 2011, a federal judge ruled that the jury was wrong when it convicted White for using his website to promote violence. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that White was within his rights when he published information about Hoffman on Overthrow.com. Judge Adelman’s decision found that "the government failed to present sufficient evidence" that White’s website posts intended to solicit harm to the Hoffman. "I further find the posts protected by the First Amendment," Adelman concluded.
White was released on the condition that he refrain from participating in “any Internet related business or hobby involving a website, and the posting of any information on any website.” He got around that by writing for the print version (which is, nonetheless, also available online) of the American Free Press, an anti-Semitic weekly founded by Holocaust denier Willis Carto. He also took steps to get back into the real estate business.
But White’s ostensibly law-abiding ways didn’t last long. In May 2012, he missed a scheduled check-in with his probation officer and disappeared from his home in Lynchburg. In direct violation of the court restrictions on internet use, he posted on Facebook that he had been tortured in prison and had “left the United States several weeks ago after accepting an offer of asylum from a foreign nation that shares my view that the United States government is not legitimate.”
After nearly a month on the run, White was arrested in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. As of July 2012, he was in federal custody and faced charges of violating the terms of his supervised release. In a series of bizarre letters written in detention to supporters and federal authorities, he said that the United States is a “demonic dream” and that he had broken free of its hold. He claimed to have been given drugs in prison that led him to communicate “with beings that … allowed [him] to explore certain hidden and obscured aspects of human experience.”
“I am not William White,” he wrote, “because William White is an illusion. One could say he was created by the government to distract the people from the poverty and misery of failed America, but, on a metaphysical level, he was dreamed into being by these demons for a purpose. No longer subject to this demonic dream, I can no longer be Bill White.”