09/13/2010

Virginia Lawsuit, Backed by SPLC, Ends with Verdict Against Neo-Nazi Leader

In a lawsuit backed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a federal jury has found that imprisoned neo-Nazi leader Bill White and his now-defunct organization must pay $545,000 for racial slurs and threats directed against five black women.

The jury in Roanoke, Va., returned its verdict on Aug. 27 after a three-day trial in which testimony described how White harassed the women after they filed a discrimination lawsuit against their white landlord. White, who served as commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party, sent letters to the women that began with "Dear Whiney Section 8 N------s." The women say they still fear White and his followers.

Troutman Sanders, an internationally renowned law firm, represented the women. The firm's Anthony F. Troy, the former Attorney General of Virginia, served as lead counsel. The SPLC assisted in the case by providing financial support and legal advice.

Bill White in handuffs
Bill White has a long history of posting racist threats and suggestions of criminal violence on the Internet.
"Tony and his team did a fantastic job, and we're delighted that we could be of assistance," said SPLC President Richard Cohen. "No one should endure the kind of vicious harassment these women did for any reason, much less for simply exercising their legal rights."

White's letter to the women called them "dirty parasites" and said the white community's "patience with you and the government that coddles you runs thin." During the trial, one of the plaintiffs said she developed an ulcer after receiving the letter. Another said she began to suffer seizures. 

The jury deliberated for about three hours before finding White and his neo-Nazi organization liable for compensatory damages -- $265,000 against White personally and $280,000 in a separate count against White and his organization. That means White will ultimately be liable for the entire judgment.

"This was a very important case," said Troy, the plaintiffs' lead counsel. "Because our clients were poor African Americans, White thought he could harass them with impunity. The jury told him otherwise and demonstrated, through its verdict, that everyone is entitled to access to the courts and to the protection of the law."

"We truly appreciate the financial support and legal advice we received from the Southern Poverty Law Center," Troy added. "We've long admired the SPLC."

For years, White has specialized in issuing an array of threats. He has posted the home addresses and phone numbers of numerous perceived enemies, including black syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts and the SPLC's Cohen. He once wrote of attempting to visit the home of SPLC Intelligence Project Director Mark Potok in the middle of the night in a "car full of guns."

White is serving a 2 ½-year sentence in federal prison for making threats through the Internet, the telephone and the mail. At the end of his term, he will face additional criminal charges in federal court in Chicago. In the wake of his legal troubles, his American National Socialist Workers Party has collapsed.