Four years after emerging from a Florida prison, a former neo-Nazi Skinhead describes the odyssey of her life.
Angela King is now 30 years old and determined to make up for the years she spent as a violent, neo-Nazi Skinhead. As an increasingly unhappy teen, King was drawn into the Skinhead lifestyle in Florida and ultimately became involved in a series of crimes, the worst of which was acting as a lookout during the armed robbery of an adult video store in which the store owner was badly beaten. When she emerged from prison at the conclusion of a three-year sentence, King had changed greatly and was now determined to make something of her life. In the four years since she was released, King has studied business education and earned an associate's degree, and she is now enrolled at the University of Central Florida, where she is working toward a bachelor's degree. She also has begun speaking publicly to college and community groups about her experiences. The Intelligence Report interviewed Angie King about her migratory Skinhead life, the influences she fell under, some of the groups she was a part of, and how, in recent years, she came to see the world in entirely new ways.
INTELLIGENCE REPORT: Angie, was there something about your childhood that you feel influenced some of your early decisions? What was your early family life like?
ANGELA KING: When I was younger, pre-school and elementary school age, my parents were very strict while they were still married. My father was Baptist and my mother was Catholic, so I was forced into both religions — I went to Baptist school as well as Catholic school. I have a younger sister and a younger brother. My younger brother wasn't born until I was about 11, but once he was my parents started having problems. Around that time, I started feeling really lost.
IR: What do you think was going on?
KING: Now that I'm older, I think I was trying to get the attention of my parents. It started out just like they say, smoking, then alcohol, then experimenting with drugs and then sex. I was really going through an identity crisis. A lot of things were really mixed up. And there was something I don't know if you want to put in.
IR: What was that?
KING: I felt like I was gay.
IR: Did you feel like you could talk to your parents about that kind of thing?
KING: My parents were both very prejudiced. My mom had bad experiences when she was younger, and it just carried over into her interpretations of things once she was an adult. My father was prejudiced, too. Growing up, I was always told that I could do anything I wanted and they would support me — except bring home someone black or a woman. So I kind of had those things hanging over my head.
IR: What was school like for you growing up?
KING: I grew up in Florida, way out west in South Florida, where there are barely any minorities at all. My parents had the money to put us in private school — they didn't feel that public school was something they wanted for us. But when I got into the 6th grade, we moved closer in to town, to Cooper City, and they put us into public schools. Not long after that, when I was 13 or 14, my parents finally split up. That was something I had a really hard time with. Also, we had gone from living in nice neighborhoods to living in really bad neighborhoods and apartments.
IR: When do you feel like things really started to go wrong for you?
KING: I think the first time I really got into trouble I was 14. I had gone to a movie with a friend and we tried to sneak in and got kicked out instead. So we went to a little corner store and bought wine coolers. A policeman driving by caught us drinking those, so they sent us to counseling.
It started out kind of small like that. But I just kept progressing. When I went to Cooper City High School, the area we lived in was the only real apartment complex around, so there were a lot of kids that sold drugs. It was mostly single-parent households, where even that parent wasn't home a lot. I really started getting heavily into stuff. I would run away from home. I was hanging out with a bad group of kids, and I kept getting attention. I was like, "Wow, I'm really cool, 'cause I keep getting in trouble and they all like me."
IR: Is this about when you ran into your first Skinheads?
KING: I was in 9th or 10th grade when I met some Skinheads at Cooper City High. When I first started there, I just went around from clique to clique, trying to fit in. That really didn't work. Then I met the Skinheads, and they were so willing to take me in, telling me, "We care about you." They started pounding stuff into me, giving me pamphlets and books to read. They were younger than me by a year or two, but through them I met the older ones, the adults, who lived by themselves and were in organized groups.
IR: What organized groups are you talking about?
KING: In the beginning, they weren't national groups. The first one I got involved in was one that we kind of made up ourselves called Strike Force. We would take other people's propaganda and cut it up and make our own fliers. We would post them all over, drink beer, hang out and get into fights.
There was all kinds of literature, from the Aryan Nations to the Church of the Creator [both well-known neo-Nazi groups]. The very first large-scale group I got involved in was [Idaho-based] Aryan Nations.
By the time I was 17, I had dropped out of school and ended up moving to Palm Beach into a house full of Skinheads. They were all members and had regular mail contact with Aryan Nations. The guy who owned the house had bought it when his parents died and he got an inheritance. We'd fly Nazi flags and Confederate flags from the roof.
IR: The police must have been aware of you. Were there confrontations?
KING: Yeah. And there were a lot of guns. One of the skins had a lot of guns and he was always going into the woods, camping and burying stuff and all kinds of weird things. So if the police would come to the door, the skins wouldn't answer — they would shut off the lights and give everybody a gun and tell them to go to a window.
One night, they didn't have any money and they wanted beer, so they went to a gas station and sent one of the younger kids in to steal beer. He went in, ran out and jumped in the car and they drove to the house. Of course, the cops got the license plate and they ended coming to the house. I wasn't there, but I think they threw the beer out of the car on the way home. I don't think anything ever came of that.
Usually, when something like that happened, there were no arrests made. Any time law enforcement came to the door, they would make me or the other girl there answer the door, because we were never in trouble and they always were.
IR: It sounds frightening.
KING: I didn't stay up there long. I was only 17, and there was so much trouble at the house all the time. I just didn't want to be in trouble. The guy I was dating was much, much older — he was about 27 at the time — and I had become pregnant. He was very, very violent, very abusive. He would hit me. He was in the Gulf War, and I think it did something to him. He was not right at all.
We went out one night and he was just driving around and around. We pulled into the parking lot of a big shopping center, and a guy we were with and his wife were in another car with a couple of other people. It was nighttime, and my boyfriend got out of the car, got something out of the trunk, and said stay in the car, but not in such nice terms. Soon, he came running back and threw something in the back seat and started screaming at me because I had gotten out of the car. Once we got back home, I realized what he had. It was a crowbar. From what I understood, he hit someone from what I now know was a gay club.
IR: It had blood on it?
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.