07/17/2007

Intelligence Report: NC Cases Spotlight Bizarre Klan Underworld

Two North Carolina criminal cases against Klansmen open a window onto a bizarre Southern underworld of murder, cocaine and a plot to murder a sheriff and blow up a courthouse. An account of the cases is the cover story of the latest issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report.

On New Year's Day in 2003, a Klansman tortured by memories of his role in the murder of a fellow Klansman confessed to law enforcement officials, setting off investigations that revealed the inner workings of the modern-day Klan in the South. It is a secret and sordid culture of violence, racism and paranoia, where coon dogs are traded for liquid dynamite, crosses are burned next to the local Waffle House and a Klan grand dragon presides over meetings in a ramshackle clubhouse on the edge of a swamp.

The Klansman's confession triggered intertwined state murder and federal gunrunning cases, with the murder charges still awaiting resolution.

The detailed Intelligence Report account, titled "Southern Gothic," is based on interviews with law enforcement authorities as well as court records, including court hearing transcripts and notes on interviews with seven Ku Klux Klan members that were conducted by investigators from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, two sheriffs' departments, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives.

Also in the Summer 2007 issue:

  • Exemplifying a historian's famous description of the "paranoid style" of the U.S. extreme right, the anti-immigration movement has adopted two major conspiracy theories. In a related story, supposed "facts" about immigrants are exposed as distortions and outright falsehoods.
  • Escalating violence against the homeless has prompted legislators in six states to introduce laws to expand hate crime penalties. The bloodshed also has raised a key question: Should the homeless, frequently targeted out of hatred but also because of the sheer ease of attacking them, be protected by hate crimes legislation?
  • In idyllic Richmond, N.H., a conflict is heating up between a growing number of townsfolk and the Saint Benedict Center, an anti-Semitic group of "radical traditionalist Catholics" estranged from the Vatican. Locals, fearful of the cult's plans to expand, have likened their simmering battle to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • After nearly a decade of maintaining a low profile, racist skinhead leader David Lynch is re-emerging as a key player in California, Utah and Florida.