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The Blotter: Spring 2010

Updates on Extremism and the Law

Aug. 26 
A federal grand jury in Denver indicted Donald Hertz, an alleged anti-abortion extremist and a resident of Spokane, Wash., after he allegedly made a telephone death threat against Dr. Warren Hern and his family, who live in Boulder, Colo. The threat followed by three weeks the May assassination of Dr. George Tiller, another late-term abortion provider, in Kansas.

Sept. 24
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a $5 million lower court judgment against members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., in favor of the father of a Marine killed in Iraq. The father had accused them of conspiracy and inflicting emotional distress by picketing his son’s funeral, part of a pattern of picketing the funerals of those they say God killed because he is angry at America for tolerating gays. The court said their “repugnant” message was protected free speech.

Sept. 25
Raymond Michael Williams, identified as the leader of the racist Inland Empire Skinheads in southern California, was found hanging in the jail cell where he was awaiting trial for conspiracy, an apparent suicide. Williams was arrested last April 20 at a hospital where his wife was inducing birth in order to have her child on Hitler’s birthday. Williams was on the national Terrorist Watch List.

Oct. 20
Daniel Lee Jones, the Portland, Ore.-based regional director of the American National Socialist Workers Party, pleaded not guilty in a Toledo, Ohio, federal court to mailing a hangman’s noose to a Lima, Ohio, NAACP official. Jones was allegedly angered by the official’s criticism of his neo-Nazi organization.

Oct. 26
Erin Sharma, a corrections officer at a federal prison in Sumter County, Fla., was sentenced to life in prison for violating a prisoner’s rights. Sharma, angered over a scuffle with inmate Richard Delano that left her with a bruised arm, had him put into a cell with a notoriously violent inmate, reputed Aryan Brotherhood member John McCullah, who allegedly killed Delano because he was a prison “snitch.”

Nov. 6
Shawn Adolf, one of three racist skinheads arrested in Denver after allegedly threatening to assassinate then-candidate Barack Obama, pleaded guilty to federal weapons charges and faced up to 10 years in prison. Court documents said Adolf and one of the other skins admitted they came to Denver, where Obama was to win the Democratic nomination, to assassinate him. But officials did not prosecute the men for the threats, saying they were merely the addled rants of “meth-heads.”

Nov. 13
Tony Alamo, the 75-year-old leader of the anti-Catholic and anti-gay Tony Alamo Christian Ministries cult based in Fouke, Ark., was sentenced to 175 years in federal prison for molesting child “brides” as young as 8 years old. Five of the victims were later each awarded $500,000 from his multimillion-dollar ministry.

Nov. 13
Amber Cummings of Belfast, Maine, pleaded guilty to killing her husband after years of abuse as he slept in late 2009. At the time, James Cummings had filled out an application to the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement and was attempting to build a “dirty” bomb to set off at the inauguration of Barack Obama, whose election had enraged him. His wife’s eight-year sentence was later suspended.

Nov. 17
After seven months of court-ordered tutoring, Shane Foster, a member of Sons of Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was declared competent to stand trial on Feb. 22 for the 2008 murder of an Oklahoma woman who tried to back out of a Klan initiation ceremony in Sun, La. Foster’s father, Imperial Wizard Raymond “Chuck” Foster, was to be tried on identical second-degree murder charges on Feb. 1.

Nov. 23 
An Orange County, Calif., judge sentenced Billy Joe Johnson to death for the 2002 murder of a fellow member of the racist skinhead gang Public Enemy Number One who had revealed gang secrets in a television interview. Johnson, a “shot caller” in the gang, admitted without hesitation in court that he killed Scott Miller, as well as a fellow prisoner and three other men, and he asked for the death penalty.

Dec. 11
A New Port Richey, Fla., jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquitting neo-Nazi John Ditullio of stabbing a neighbor in 2006 and murdering her 17-year-old visitor. The judge in the case had allowed Ditullio to cover his racist tattoos during the trial. Ditullio’s DNA was found on a gas mask worn by the killer but he denied the accusations from the stand. He was to be retried on capital murder charges on March 2.