Former Followers Expose Neo-Nazi Skinhead, Former Klan Leader Bill Riccio for Sexual Harassment, Abuse
Skinhead Recruiter Faces Accusations
By Brentin Mock
The 1993 documentary, "Skinheads USA: Soldiers of Hate," emphasized Bill Riccio's relationships with alienated boys and young men.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Ronnie Painter was a 15-year-old alcoholic and painkiller addict on the run from the law in 1992 when he first took refuge at "the compound," also known as the WAR House. Tucked away in a secluded, heavily forested area just outside this central Alabama city, the compound was owned by William E. Davidson, more commonly known by the alias Bill Riccio.
At that time Riccio was a former Klan leader-turned-godfather of the neo-Nazi skinhead movement in the Deep South. The compound was equal parts recruiting station, clubhouse and crash pad. It was a place where underage, disaffected boys could go to drink, play with guns and feel wanted.
Painter today is a 32-year-old inmate at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Ala., where he's been incarcerated for burglary and drug convictions since 1998. He's a frail man whose physical frame is barely larger than a folding chair. He was even tinier as a teen when Riccio urged him to get the "Confederate lady" tattoo on his right leg to demonstrate his allegiance to the Aryan National Front (ANF), a skinhead gang Riccio created in the early 1990s.
Ronnie Painter came from a home where he and his twin brother Lonnie watched their mother beaten often by her boyfriend, who rained blows on the brothers as well. Ronnie dropped out of school in the eighth grade and headed straight for a life of juvenile crime. It was during this troubling time that he was recruited and groomed by Riccio.
"He [Riccio] would prey on kids with legal problems, emotional problems, and dysfunctional kids," Painter told the Intelligence Report in a recent prison interview.
When Ronnie's brother escaped from a juvenile detention center, also in 1992, the first place he went was the WAR House, where Ronnie Painter had already found a home.
"Mostly, it was alcohol out there," Lonnie Painter said in an interview from Draper Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala., where he's serving 20 years for armed robbery. "Lots of guns, we shot a lot of guns — anything that looked cool to a kid, he [Riccio] done it."
Riccio was at the height of his power in 1992. He was 35 years old and presiding over a network of at least 70 skinheads in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. He enthralled the boys with motivational speeches that indoctrinated them into Riccio's blend of neo-Confederate ideology and Hitler worship. He instructed them to blame all their problems on non-whites, gays and the Jews who secretly control the U.S. government. He taught his followers that organized racism and violence were their only paths to salvation. Skinheads under his sway committed at least four murders.
"It is [Riccio's] apparent ability to organize and mobilize disenchanted young white males to acts of violence that makes him dangerous," said the judge who sentenced Riccio to 46 months in prison for violating a federal bodyguard statute in 1992. (In the end, Riccio only served 15 months.)
Riccio still lives in the Birmingham area, and is still active in the white supremacist movement as the imperial kludd, or national chaplain, of the North Georgia White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. By his own description, he continues to cruise shopping malls, rock concerts and swimming holes in search of young recruits, who might be well advised to heed the warnings of the Painter brothers and several other members of the previous generation of Riccio's toy soldiers.
Now grown men, they uniformly describe Riccio as a master manipulator who exploited them emotionally and, in some cases, sexually. "I'd get extremely drunk and ride off in the car with him, then he'd perform oral sex on me," says Ronnie Painter, who says he remembers at least four such sexual encounters with Riccio. Afterwards, "He'd apologize and then call me three or four times a day asking me if I was mad at him," says Ronnie.
Lonnie Painter says that one night during a party at the compound, Riccio plied him with alcohol and gave him a few red pills. He says he woke up with Riccio on top of him, groping between his legs. "I was scared to try and leave right then," says Lonnie. "When he went to work, I packed my shit and got my [grand]momma to come get me. I never slept at his house again."
Ronnie Painter, who has been incarcerated since 1998 for burglary and drug offenses, says he was sexually violated by Bill Riccio at least four times when he was 15 years old. Photo by Billy Brown.
Reached by the Intelligence Report, Riccio denied that he had had or tried to have sex with any of the boys who flocked to his home in the 1990s. "That's certainly not true in any sense of the word," Riccio said.
Rumors that Riccio engaged in illegal sexual activities with underage boys have circulated in the white supremacist movement for at least two decades. Now, three former Aryan National Front skinheads have come forward to allege that those rumors were true. Other former ANF skins interviewed for this story said that while Riccio did not sexually exploit them, they believe now that he took advantage of their difficult adolescences to instill them with racial hatred and influence them to commit crimes that ultimately landed many of them in prison.
As one of Riccio's former skinheads, Louis Oddo, puts it, "There's no telling how many lives and families this guy has fucked up."
In 1992, Jeff McClure was the tattoo artist for the Confederate Hammerskins, a violent skinhead faction whose members hung out at the compound along with the Aryan National Front. He was 15 when he first visited there.
"In junior high [school], all these kids that were poor white trash with no family were coming to school saying they were ANF and that they were with Bill Riccio," recalls McClure. "The whole thing seemed strange to me."
Kenny Loggins, a former Riccio skin who's currently serving life without parole at Donaldson Correctional Facility for the killing of a hitchhiker when he was 17, is one of those who allege that Riccio made sexual advances to him.