Angela King Recounts Her Time in the Neo-Nazi Skinhead Movement
KING: Yeah, but they washed it off once we got home. Later, some detectives came to the house looking for me. I just told them I didn't know anything about it. And they didn't actually charge me then. That wasn't until about two years later.
IR: Did you stay in Palm Beach?
KING: I ended up moving back south, to Hollywood again. I still had friends down there. I started getting involved in the Church of the Creator. I wrote to Rick McCarty [then, briefly, the COTC leader] and told him I was down here, but that I was the only one who was then actually a member. He ended up offering to let me write an article for their paper - Racial Loyalty. But he just used initials instead of my name, and used a fake picture of an actress or someone that he said was me.
IR: What initials?
KING: Women of the COTC. I was the one that started that. But it didn't last long. When I was 18, I moved to Iowa, where I had a best friend. When I moved in with her, she wasn't involved and had very different views than I did. But I kept forcing literature on her and she finally became a Skinhead and a member of the Church [COTC], too.
I didn't even stay a year. I ended up moving to North Carolina with other Skinheads we met. We rented a trailer in a place called Maggie Valley and stayed there a while. We opened up P.O. boxes for the Church of the Creator there and wrote letters to different organizations, keeping up contacts. We were in contact with some Confederate Hammerskins [a particularly tough racist Skinhead group] who said if you ever make it to Tennessee, look us up. We did visit, a very, very small town in Johnson County, and I ended up in jail there.
IR: What happened?
KING: We'd been drinking all day and the guys that we were with went to this grocery store parking lot and started harassing everybody there. The local county cops came and gave everybody a sobriety test. I didn't quite pass mine, and I was underage. They arrested me and we had some words. I ended up charged with destruction of city property, public intoxication and assaulting an officer. They called me some names when I was in the back of their car, so I took off my boot and started beating on the glass partition until I broke it. I was in jail there a couple of weeks. Once I got out, I packed up and moved back to South Florida, to Hollywood.
On my 19th birthday, I was back in jail again, for disorderly conduct and warrants for traffic citations and an aggravated battery charge from when I was 17, in Palm Beach. When I was arrested, I was drunk again and making racial slurs. I had an African-American judge who really tried to help me. She gave me community service at an African-American church and a Jewish community center in hopes of helping me actually get to know other people. But I didn't complete it. I left Florida for South Carolina instead.
About a year later I came back to Florida and ended up in the Leesburg area. Somehow or other, the cops got called to the apartment one night and ran everybody's name. I was extradited back down for violating parole. I saw the same judge, and she reinstated the probation.
It was right around this time that I went to court in Palm Beach for aggravated battery, for the crowbar attack. I figured I didn't really do it, but I was found guilty. The judge declared a mistrial for some reason, though, and I took a plea bargain. I was under house arrest for about two years.
IR: Wasn't it around this time that you got together with Ray Leone [a COTC member five years her junior]?
KING: Yeah. I had heard of Leone, but did not actually meet him until late '97, when he moved to Hollywood with me. I met Jules [Fettu, then COTC's Florida leader] earlier, but met up with him, too, around this same time. And Matt Hale [COTC's national leader, now serving a 40-year sentence in a federal prison for soliciting the murder of a federal judge in Chicago] came down that New Year's.
Honestly, he struck me as kind of feminine. I never really believed he was what he said. He seemed very much like he had ulterior motives.
Anyway, this was a time when we were recruiting heavily. I lived near the beach, so we would go down and look for young kids, teenagers, out drinking, and we would bring them literature and tell them, "Don't you wanna be something, be proud of what you are?" We'd get them right in, just like I was brought right in. We actually recruited whole families, not just teenagers. At the same time, we were going out and getting into all kinds of trouble, drinking and getting into fights.
IR: The next spring, on March 29, 1998, you and Ray and three others robbed Exotic Video in Hollywood, and Ray pistol-whipped its owner. Can you describe that night?
KING: Most of us were drinking heavily and we ended up in a huge fight at this club. Everybody was pumped up and the adrenaline was flowing, and the guys started talking about The Turner Diaries [the same neo-Nazi novel, about a future race war, that inspired Timothy McVeigh]. We all started discussing the book, and then we went looking for places we thought would fit the description of what should be robbed in the book - any kind of sex stores, liquor stores, anywhere debauchery was going on.
We drove past an adult video store and we all said that's the perfect place, I bet somebody Jewish owns it or runs it. We pulled alongside and we all sat in the car. A black man actually walked by, and Ray said something like, "Maybe I should shoot him because he could say we were here." Thank God he didn't. Then Ray went in the store with a mask made out of a shirt sleeve and ran out a couple of minutes later. We went to our apartment and split the money and everybody left.
It wasn't long before the cops started making arrests in another incident, and we heard they were trying to find Ray. Ray and I left and went to Kentucky, where some Skinheads I'd met in South Carolina had moved.
IR: Did things calm down in Kentucky?
KING: It was around this time that I really started thinking this isn't the life that I want to lead. The relationship I had with Ray was abusive, too, and certain things just started becoming a lot clearer to me. I was about 23 and I was thinking, "What if I want to have a family? Is this the kind of life I want, being on the run and always scared?" I can't even count how many times I packed my bags and went to the bus station and just sat there, trying to get up enough courage to just leave him. But I never did it. I ended up going right back.
At one point, Ray and I were visiting Illinois, where his mother lived, and we heard that one of the Skinheads who was with us during the robbery had been arrested. We decided to leave. We made it to Chicago, but we ended up getting pulled over and Ray got arrested [on a Florida warrant related to an attack on a black man and his son outside a concert in the town of Sunrise]. They let me take our truck and I drove straight to Florida. I was arrested there for the robbery about three weeks later. At first, I really didn't understand the severity of it.
IR: You were ultimately sentenced to about six years in prison, although a judge reduced that to three years after you began to cooperate with prosecutors. What was your prison experience like in those years, from 1998 to 2001?
KING: I just thought if I was going to do anything with myself, this was definitely the time. I was kept in solitary confinement at first, because at this point I had tattoos all over me, including four swastikas. Finally, they put me in the population. I would wear as long shorts as I could find and wear socks so nobody saw the tattoos. It took me months before I would even talk to anybody that I was incarcerated with and tell them anything about myself. I think some people knew I was a Skinhead, but nobody really picked on me and I actually started making friends.
In there it was a little hive, with people giving you legal advice, telling you how things worked, how you can be allowed to call your lawyer, everything. It was amazing, because my entire life I had never been around such a mix of people. They were people from all over the world, every race and ethnicity.
IR: And you began cooperating with state and federal law enforcement?
KING: Yeah. Once I actually sat down with some detectives and agents, I really realized the magnitude of the whole picture. It was almost as though I just opened my eyes and saw what I wasn't seeing before. It started to make an impact on me that somebody could have died. Somebody could have been hurt real bad.
Meeting the different people I was incarcerated with also had a really big impact on me, although it took me a long time to actually sit with somebody who was black and say, "This is what I used to be." It really made me open up to actually have somebody sit there and tell me, "You know, when I grew up I never met white people and I always hated them." I saw everything I'd been missing all these years.
IR: What happened between you and Ray Leone?
KING: When I was first incarcerated, we actually almost got married. I thought maybe I could get him to have the same kind of change of heart that I was having. But he was a very, very angry person. At one point, we were put on a van together to go to court and they were nice enough to seat him right behind me. He got hold of my arm and squeezed it pretty good - he left some bruises - and threatened me. So I did have some problems with him. Later, I let him know that I wasn't straight.
IR: You had come to terms with those feelings by then?
KING: When I was an adolescent I liked girls, and I always had the thought in my head that I'm sick, something is wrong with me. I didn't know what I was looking for. But when I was in prison I started to meet gay women, and a lot of things started coming out of me. I really had nothing but time to think about why I was the way I was - why I was so angry and so mean - and I came to the simple realization that I think I'm gay and I don't think I have ever liked myself very much. Once I started cooperating with law enforcement, I started to feel so much better inside.
The people that I grew closest to in prison were all Jamaican girls. They became the best friends I ever had. I did everything I could to make a change. I took a business vocational course and got certified in business education and actually taught people to read. It changed my entire life. It was a true epiphany. I could wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and even though I was incarcerated I actually liked who I was looking at.