False Patriots

Profiles of 40 antigovernment leaders
The Nazi Debutante
Carol Howe, 31

Many of those who entered the radical right during the 1990s were accused of being mentally unstable, but very few went on to have major motion pictures made about them.

Carol Elizabeth Howe, debutante daughter of a wealthy Oklahoma City businessman, took up with veteran white supremacist organizer Dennis Mahon after supposedly being attacked by two black men.

It was not long before she acquired a swastika tattoo on one arm and moved to the white supremacist Elohim City compound. But after quarreling with Mahon, Howe seemed to change her allegiances, signing up as a paid informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) while still at Elohim City. Soon, however, the ATF fired her because of her "instability."

But after the Oklahoma bombing, Howe was temporarily brought back as a government informant and proceeded to spin a confused story about ex-boyfriend Mahon's and other Elohim City denizens' alleged involvement in the attack. Even though she testified at McVeigh accomplice Terry Nichols' trial, she was contradicted by much evidence.

By 1997, she had taken up with another white supremacist, James Veifhaus. She and Viefhaus were charged with conspiracy over an apparent bomb threat left on their answering machine, but she was acquitted (he was not).

Today, Howe has changed her name to Amanda Bryn Collins, talks of law school, and is the subject, incredibly, of a Columbia Pictures movie project.


A Well-Armed Martyr
Michael Hill, deceased

The American radical right has long had a penchant for martyrs, and on June 28, 1995, former Canton, Ohio, police officer Michael Hill entered the pantheon of those who supposedly have died for the movement.

At the age of 25, Hill had been a National Guardsman who was called up during antiwar demonstrations at Kent State, where four students were shot to death; he later co-authored a book about his experience entitled I Was There: What Really Happened at Kent State. By the 1980s, Hill was ensconced in the thriving far-right scene in Ohio.

In 1987, he and his wife barricaded themselves in their house outside Canton when city officials came to evict them because it was so filthy that the city considered it uninhabitable. Hill later became the chaplain of the Ohio Unorganized Militia. In 1995, he was stopped by a Frazeysburg police officer for driving without a license plate, having only a homemade card reading "MILITIA 3-13 CHAPLAIN."

Hill drove off and was stopped again, exiting the car this time with both hands on a .45-caliber pistol. He was shot three times in a killing later ruled justified. In the aftermath of his death, Hill was memorialized by some of the hardest right figures in America.

Nord Davis, an anti-Semitic ideologue, hauled a 7,200-pound granite memorial from North Carolina to a spot near the site where Hill died, and militiamen still gather there on "Mike Hill Memorial Day."


Riches to Rags
Emilio Ippolito, 75

The Patriot movement played heavily on Americans' antigovernment sentiments — feelings that often stemmed from some purely personal dispute but were enlarged in certain minds into major political struggles.

In Tampa, Fla., Emilio Ippolito and his family were once the largest landholders in Hillsborough County. But starting in the 1970s, Ippolito, a domineering and stubborn man by all accounts, became embroiled in litigation over code violations — battles that he fought with such single-mindedness that the family wound up losing the bulk of its property.

In the early 1990s, Ippolito took up with the "common-law" court movement, starting his own panel called the Constitutional Court of We the People. Over the years, Ippolito or his followers sent letters to judges accusing them of treason, threatened a jury foreman with death, and discussed abducting federal judges.

Ippolito dragged his daughter, Susan Mokdad, through it all, first bringing her into court at 5 years old and having her make her first presentation to a judge at age 14. Finally, in 1997, Ippolito was convicted of sending threats, conspiracy and owning a weapon with the serial number removed.

He was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison, while his weeping daughter, who was then 41, got 10.

Ippolito's final words: "I don't ever want to see another legal document again."


Mark, from Maintenance
Mark Koernke, 42

In the days after the Oklahoma bomb exploded, reports from Florida militiamen pegged bomber Timothy McVeigh as the bodyguard of a virtually unknown janitor in Michigan.

Although the reports were almost certainly false, they helped bring the nation's media to the door of Mark Koernke, who, when he wasn't working in the University of Michigan's maintenance department, broadcast a daily dose of short-wave conspiracy theory as "Mark from Michigan."

Koernke, who claimed a background in military intelligence, also produced videos alleging Hong Kong police had been secreted in America for a United Nations takeover. Koernke got into his first real scrape with the law in 1997, when he allegedly attacked a man coming to serve him with a subpoena in a murder case involving several Koernke associates.

After being charged with assault, Koernke jumped bond and was only arrested months later as he tried to swim across an icy lake to freedom. After being convicted of bail jumping, Koernke got into trouble again in 2000, when he sped off as police tried to question him as he sat in front of a bank that had just been robbed.

Although the paranoid Koernke was uninvolved in the robbery, he ended a 50-mile chase by crashing into a tree and jumping, again, into a pond. In March of this year, he was convicted of fleeing police and resisting arrest and faces up to five years in prison.