A retrospective of Hate Incidents and Groups in the 1900s
The Decade in Review
The Terror Accelerates
Jan. 19 After producing a bizarre underground video, members of the Aryan Republican Army (ARA) including "Commander Pedro" — Peter Langan — are charged in connection with some 22 Midwestern bank holdups meant to finance a white supremacist insurrection.
Eventually, Pennsylvania neo-Nazi Mark Thomas will plead guilty to helping to plan the robberies. It later turns out the ARA men obtained weapons from the soon-to-be notorious Kehoe brothers, whom they met at Oklahoma's armed Elohim City compound.
March 15 Federal prosecutors in Tampa, Fla., accuse Emilio Ippolito, his daughter and other members of the Constitutional Common-Law Court of conspiracy and other charges for allegedly planning to kidnap and hang federal judges, mailing threats and obstructing justice.
Once again, the case dramatizes the violent potential of "common-law" adherents who had once been widely dismissed as mere "paper terrorists." Around the country, judges begin sending hundreds of common-law backers to prison on a variety of charges.
March 25 A common-law group dubbed the Montana Freemen begin a widely publicized, 81-day standoff in Jordan, Mont., after leader LeRoy Schweitzer and Daniel Petersen are arrested and charged with millions of dollars' worth of fraud. The charges relate to the Freemen's, and especially Schweitzer's, role in spreading financial rip-offs around the country.
The case highlights the racist beliefs of "sovereign citizens" — who claim that whites have rights to a higher form of citizenship than others — as well as law enforcement's new restraint when dealing with radicals in a standoff situation. In the end, no one is hurt and Schweitzer and other activists are sentenced to prison for up to 22 years.
The Freemen financial scams are typical of others that become a hallmark of the 1990s antigovernment movement.
April 26 Two leaders of the Militia-at-Large of the Republic of Georgia are charged with manufacturing 40 shrapnel bombs for distribution to militia members. Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr. will later be sentenced on conspiracy and explosives charges to prison terms of up to eight years.
Another Militia-at-Large member, accused of training a team to assassinate politicians, will be convicted of conspiracy.
July 1 Twelve members of an Arizona militia group called the Viper Team are arrested on federal conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges after surveilling and videotaping a series of potential targets.
Authorities say the group, after training with guns and bombs in a nearby national forest, had plotted to blow up at least five government and law enforcement buildings in the Phoenix area.
In the end, one member is acquitted, another is convicted and the 10 others plead guilty to various charges, drawing prison sentences of up to nine years.
July 27 A nail-packed bomb goes off at the Atlanta Olympics — an event seen by many extremists as emblematic of a multiracial "New World Order" — and kills two people and injures more than 100 others.
No suspect is immediately identified. But in 1998, federal officials will charge Christian Identity adherent Eric Rudolph with this bombing and others at a gay bar and an abortion clinic.
The attack highlights the virulence of many followers of Identity, which now has an estimated 50,000 adherents in the United States. Many believers think Christ cannot return to Earth until "Satanic" elements here have been liquidated.
July 29 Washington State Militia leader John Pitner and seven others are arrested in connection with a plot to build pipe bombs for a confrontation with the federal government. Pitner and four others are convicted on weapons charges, but conspiracy charges against the eight end in a mistrial.
The case reflects the continuing strength of the Patriot movement, which peaks with 858 groups active this year, according to a count by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the next few years, the number of militia-type groups will fall sharply.
Oct. 8 Three self-described Phineas Priests — zealots who feel they've been called directly by God to undertake violent attacks — are charged in connection with two bank robberies and bombings at the banks, a Spokane, Wash., newspaper and a Planned Parenthood office there.
Charles Barbee, Robert Berry and Jay Merrell are eventually sentenced to life prison terms; a fourth group member will draw a 55-year term. The $108,000 they stole is never recovered, and authorities fear it has been funneled into the radical underground.
Oct. 11 Seven members of the Mountaineer Militia are arrested in a plot to blow up the FBI's national fingerprint records center in West Virginia, where more than 1,000 people work. Leader Floyd "Ray" Looker — who believed the facility was actually the intelligence center for the New World Order — will later be sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Eventually, two other defendants are sentenced on explosives charges and a third draws a year in prison for providing blueprints of the FBI facility to Looker, who sold them to an informant.
Oct. 27 Dressed as the Charles Manson family and adorned with swastikas, a dozen Skinheads return to a pre-Halloween party in Norfolk, Mass., and stab to death a young man who had earlier helped oust them.
The attack, for which John Tague will be sentenced to life without parole, marks a resurgence of neo-Nazi Skinheads, who had largely gone underground after a law enforcement crackdown earlier in the decade.
"It's come back again," says an intelligence officer in California, where the problem is especially acute.
Nov. 13 Richard Machado becomes the first person in the nation charged with committing a hate crime over the Internet after he allegedly sends a threatening, racist E-mail message to 62 mostly Asian students at the University of California-Irvine. Although his first case ends in a mistrial, he will be convicted in a federal court in 1998.
In the coming years, the tempo of hate mail sent electronically over the Internet will pick up dramatically.