Neo-Nazi Leader Bill White Again Convicted of Threat Charges
Imprisoned former neo-Nazi leader Bill White can't get a break — even when he's broke. In a case that tested the limits of free speech, an all-white jury in Chicago found the ever-garrulous, imprisoned White guilty of using his website to threaten the foreman of a jury that convicted a fellow white supremacist.
White targeted Mark Hoffman, the jury foreman in the 2004 trial of white supremacist Matthew Hale, who was found guilty of soliciting the murder of a federal judge. Years after the trial, White listed Hoffman's address, telephone number and other personal information on his Overthrow.com website and called him a "gay, Jewish anti-racist," adding that he "played a leading role in inciting both the conviction and the harsh sentence that followed."
White's attorneys framed their defense around his First Amendment rights — a point the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Virginia supported. The ACLU pointed out in a friend-of-the-court brief that First Amendment case law distinguishes between protected free speech and what is known as a "true threat" — a threat that a reasonable third party would take seriously. It argued that White's posting, which did not directly propose violence against Offman, did not amount to a true threat.
The jury, however, disagreed after hearing evidence about the full context of White's website, which contained a plethora of verbal attacks and threats directed at various perceived enemies.
The verdict came just as White was about to finish a two-and-a-half year sentence for making racially charged threats against other enemies. He also will have to pay $545,000 to five black Virginia Beach, Va., women in a separate discrimination lawsuit; White had sent them vulgar, threatening letters during their dispute with a local landlord. The women were awarded amounts ranging from $45,000 to $65,000. White's now-defunct American National Socialist Workers Party was found liable for another $280,000. (The Southern Poverty Law Center assisted the attorney for the women.)
It's unclear just how much White can pay (he once claimed to be worth more than $2 million), but the plaintiffs can seek to collect any assets he might acquire over the next 40 years. Also, the financial punishments against him will stand even if he should file for bankruptcy.
The ruling ends a lucrative run White enjoyed with his real estate empire in Virginia, where he bought property in largely black neighborhoods as part of what he called a "ghetto beautification project." What an ugly brand of beauty it was: White would boot out residents who could no longer afford to stay without using Section 8 government vouchers, which he refused to accept. He sent letters calling his residents "dirty parasites" and once wrote tenants that his "patience with you and the government that coddles you runs thin."
As if financial and judicial ruin were not enough, an ironic twist left White's family targeted by threats from the racist right last October. Apparently angered by things White had said in court, self-professed Aryan Brotherhood member Timothy Grant Bland, 45, allegedly began a terror campaign against White's wife and daughter, calling in the middle of the night to leave lewd and sometimes hostile messages.
"You're a disgrace," Bland said in one phone call to White's wife, Meghan, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. "Aryan Brotherhood is coming for you." Meghan White said Bland also texted her pictures of his genitals — pictures that were still on his cell phone when he was arrested.