Tom Metzger — a wily, iconic racist ideologue who has for years espoused “lone-wolf” terrorism — could soon find himself facing criminal charges filed by the federal government he’s excoriated for decades.
Federal investigators, fresh off a related mail-bombing conviction in Arizona, may be pressing for what could develop into a major Justice Department criminal case against “Terrible Tommy” Metzger, as he likes to call himself. Court records filed in three states show the investigators strongly suspect Metzger provided the Arizona bomber with explosive-making instructions, knowing they would be used in the commission of a crime of violence.
At 74, Metzger, who now lives in Warsaw, Ind., has “celebrity status” as the founder of White Aryan Resistance (WAR), court documents say, and is a dean of white supremacists. He’s the last vestige of a generation of revolutionary racist leaders in the United States that included the late Richard G. Butler of Aryan Nations and the late Robert Miles, a one-time Michigan Klan leader and convicted bomber. While those two and many other racist leaders were charged in various criminal cases over the past three decades, Metzger has managed to avoid any serious criminal charges in his 40-plus years of activism.
That may be about to change.
Court documents filed in Arizona, Illinois and Indiana and obtained by Hatewatch suggest that federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives may now be building a case against Metzger that could be filed in any of several federal jurisdictions.
Metzger is accused in the court papers of providing bomb-making instructions to long-time WAR associates Dennis and Daniel Mahon in a plot to send a mail bomb to the black man who was then the diversity officer for the city of Scottsdale, Ariz. Don Logan’s hands were maimed, and two colleagues were less seriously injured, when he opened a package containing a pipe bomb on Feb. 26, 2004, at his city office.
The Mahon twins — itinerant aircraft mechanics and well-known racist activists who have lived in Oklahoma, Arizona and Illinois — were indicted in 2009, five years after the attack on Logan. At the same time, agents raided Metzger’s Warsaw, Ind., home and seized computers and other items. Metzger was not arrested, and the results of the raid have not been disclosed. However, Metzger was recently described in open court as an “unindicted co-conspirator.”
This Feb. 24, Daniel Mahon, 61, was acquitted of a single conspiracy count by a jury. But his identical twin brother, Dennis, was convicted of three felonies, including conspiracy, distribution of information about explosives, and using explosives to attack a building. That last conviction is apparently the “crime of violence” that officials need to pursue charges against Metzger.
Tom Atteberry, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Phoenix field division, encompassing the states of Arizona and New Mexico, said he couldn’t discuss the possibility of bringing such a charge. “But what I can tell you is, even though this [Mahon] trial is over, there are continuing leads being pursued throughout the United States,” Atteberry told Hatewatch. “ATF is fully committed to pursuing leads with vigor with our state and local partners.”
Reached at his Indiana home, Metzger denied that he had ever built a bomb, instructed anyone on how to build a bomb, or knew of Dennis Mahon’s involvement in the Logan attack. “I don’t know what they would build a case on,” he said. “I’ve been the target of various investigations going back to the 1970s. Unless they come with an arrest warrant, I don’t pay attention to what the feds are doing.”
Metzger and Lone Wolves
Tom Metzger’s racist activities go back to the 1970s, when he joined David Duke’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, quickly rising to California state leader. He later split with Duke, who he accused of womanizing and other transgressions, and formed his own group to seek political office. After a failed run for Congress, he founded what would eventually be called the White Aryan Resistance.
WAR published a grotesquely racist tabloid, complete with animalistic portrayals of black people and thick with slurs and calls for violence. At the same time, however, Metzger’s ideology was quite different than most on the racist right. He described himself as an anti-corporate leftist, a strong supporter of unions (for white people) and the working class. He applauded black racists, who he saw as standing up for their own people just as he was standing up for whites.
Metzger also pioneered the idea of using racist skinheads as the “shock troops” of the movement. Reaching out to such skins, he sent a trainer to Portland, Ore., in 1988 to encourage skinhead street violence against black people. Three weeks later, three skinheads murdered an Ethiopian student, resulting in criminal convictions but also a civil suit from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In the end, a jury returned a $12.5 million verdict against Metzger and WAR. Metzger, who wrote after the murders that the killers had done their “civic duty,” was forced to make monthly payments to the student’s estate for the next 20 years.
Since that trial, Metzger has evolved into an ideologue and a cheerleader, rather than an activist leading street actions or building a group. He has spent much of that time encouraging “lone wolves” to attack the government and minorities and selling publications detailing weapons, bombs and paramilitary tactics.
Indeed, as one court document in the Mahon case points out, Metzger’s website reflects these efforts. “There are those like myself who have been out in the open for years with no real possibility of becoming deep cover Lone Wolves,” he is quoted as saying. “Our job is primarily one of creating white propaganda, of being public information sources and for communicating to those in deep cover.”
It’s that very kind of relationship that may be at issue now.
Curiouser and Curiouser
Five months before the 2004 Scottsdale bombing, a man identifying himself as “Dennis Mahon of the White Aryan Resistance” called the city’s diversity office and left a threatening message. The caller’s number was later confirmed to be that of Dennis Mahon, and an agent who met Mahon repeatedly during the subsequent investigation recognized the voice on the call as Mahon’s, court records say.
In early February 2004, Metzger and Dennis Mahon appeared together at Aryanfest 2004, a white power concert in Fountain Hills, Ariz., just three miles from Scottsdale. (The event was one of the last attended by Richard Butler, the Aryan Nations founder from Idaho who died that fall, on Sept. 8.)
Aryanfest attracted some fairly prominent press attention in the Phoenix area. Between Feb. 17 and Feb. 19, the Phoenix New Times alternative newspaper and two other small local papers published a major New Times article entitled “Barbecue Nations” that mocked the participants, with a headline referring to “shaved-headed men hugging each other like they were at a gay pride picnic” and an unnamed law enforcement official describing Dennis Mahon as a “drunken fool.”
The racists couldn’t resist responding. Starting on Feb. 19 and continuing for the next two days, Mahon and Metzger separately contacted one of the article’s authors by phone and E-mail. “Amusing article,” Metzger wrote in one E-mail, court records in the Mahon case say. “If only you knew. But you will. lol TM.”
On Feb. 21 — the same day that the reporter received a final phone call and a voicemail from Dennis Mahon — a pipe bomb, disguised in a cardboard box and addressed to Don Logan, was left in the Scottsdale library. It was routed through the city’s internal mail system to the diversity office, where it arrived on Feb. 26. Logan opened it that day. The blast injured Logan, a secretary and another worker.
Records in the case against the Mahons say that ATF Special Agent Tristan Moreland located phone records showing a “series of calls between Mahon and Metzger just before and after the attempted contacts” with New Times.
Metzger’s E-mail strongly suggests that he knew the bombing was about to occur, the ATF agent said in a court affidavit. Moreland said it was his “belief that Metzger foreshadowed the Logan bombing to this reporter in the email.”
Metzger absolutely denied that. “I had no idea the Mahons were involved in something like this,” he told Hatewatch. “If I had known, I would have told them to stay the hell away from anything like that. If I’d known Dennis was involved in something like this, I would taken him outside and broken his legs.”
In the immediate aftermath of the 2004 bombing, investigators focused in on the Mahon brothers. The ATF recruited a female informant, a former stripper who in early 2005 moved with an undercover ATF agent into a trailer park in Catossa, Okla., where the Mahons were then living. She flirted with the Mahons, at one point sending them two provocative pictures of herself, and sympathized with their views. Within days, they began to talk to her about various bombings.
In 2006, Metzger left Fallbrook, Calif., for Warsaw, Ind., where he moved into his mother’s house after her death. Even then, three years before the Mahons’ arrests, the investigation already was beginning to point to Metzger.
‘I Won’t Betray You’
In January 2008, a smitten Dennis Mahon allegedly told the female informant that he and his brother “have been bombing for the movement since the early 1980s and that Tom METZGER told them, ‘If they (The MAHON’s) want to go ahead and bomb a Synagogue or a Mexican restaurant go ahead, but that he (METZGER) doesn’t want to know about it,’” according to an ATF affidavit filed in court.
“MAHON said that METZGER said that he will be the lightning bolt for it and take the heat, but that he just doesn’t want to know about it. MAHON appeared to be telling the [informant] that he and his brother Daniel committed bombings on METZGER’s and the movement’s behalf, but that METZGER insulates himself by not having the specific knowledge of when and where.”
Meanwhile, a federal judge authorized a wiretap of Metzger’s telephone that was active from January until June 2008, court documents say. Eventually, investigators would surveil Metzger personally, monitor his website, and place a “mail cover” on his post office box. At one point, they even installed a camera that took pictures of Metzger as he picked up WAR mail at his post office box, court documents show.
On May 22, 2008, after finding partial DNA profiles on some of the Scottsdale bomb components, ATF agents with a court warrant swabbed the mouths of the Mahon brothers to see if they could obtain a match. Ultimately, they couldn’t make the match, but their visit raised alarms. Two days later, testimony at the later Mahon trial would reveal, Dennis Mahon called his mentor, Metzger.
“I won’t betray you, Tom,” Mahon said over the tapped phone.
“I didn’t think you would,” Metzger replied.
In his comments to Hatewatch, Metzger suggested that far from being in on the attack, he hardly even knew the case. “Who’s this Logan anyway?” he said of the diversity officer who was maimed. “A nobody that I’ve never heard about.”
After obtaining the swabs, investigators finally presented their evidence to a Phoenix grand jury. In June 2009, the Mahon brothers were indicted in a conspiracy, the indictment said, to “promote racial discord” and “teach the tactics of terrorism with the intent that others would commit violent acts on behalf of WAR.”
Later that month, ATF agents raided the Mahon family residence in Davis Junction, Ill., about 10 miles south of Rockford, searching for bomb-making materials, instruction manuals and any related computer files. In an affidavit backing the search, the ATF described the Mahons as “closely associated” with Metzger and WAR for 20 years and noted that WAR promoted lone-wolf attacks.
At the same time, they searched Metzger’s Indiana home. According to the affidavit supporting that search, agents were looking for information on how to manufacture bombs, evidence of manufacturing bombs, computers, and any documents relating to the 2004 attack on Don Logan. It said that investigators had developed “evidence suggesting that that MAHON brothers follow the advice and direction of TOM METZGER” when it comes to racist activities.
Making the Case
As interest in Metzger’s possible role heated up, undercover ATF agents also ordered a number of books from Metzger’s site — materials with names like Terrible Tom’s Guide: White Urban Survival, Combatives: Who, What, Why and When of Unconventional Warfare, and Total Resistance: Resisting the Iron Heel.
Because ATF experts were able to recover enough forensic evidence from the 2004 mail bomb, including triggering components, they were able to accurately surmise what types of plans were used to build the device. Those plans looked similar to those described in books sold by Metzger from his website.
The affidavit also said Metzger “regularly discusses acts of violence in the furtherance of his white supremacist goals” on his Internet radio show. It added: “Some of these acts included the use of small explosive devices to disrupt civil rights marches and the murder of judges and politicians. Although at times during these shows Metzger tells his listeners not to act violently, he and his guests often contradict themselves by telling the followers the opposite. They say things like, ‘If there was ever a time for a white barbarian, it is now,’ and that the commission of violence and murder is the only way things are going to change in this country.”
The affidavit also spelled out the ATF’s theory of Metzger’s possible criminal culpability, saying the search was for evidence of “teaching or distributing material related to an explosive device with intent the teaching or material will be used to commit a Federal crime of violence and/or knowing that the person receiving such teaching or material intends to use [it in] … a Federal crime of violence.”
In January 2009, an undercover ATF agent wrote Metzger a letter saying he could “use a little instruction on the finer points of warfare.” He also said that he was “thinking about waiting until its [sic] 120 [degrees] this summer and blowing the power grid or something like that.” He included $100. Within two weeks, Metzger had filled the request for three books. He made no comment about his customer’s plans.
After the June 2009 raid and the arrests of the Mahons, things were quiet until the twins were finally put on trial early this year. Now, with the conviction of Dennis Mahon in a crime of violence, officials may be moving ahead again.
It’s clear what federal law enforcement agents believe is really going on. In one affidavit, ATF agent Moreland says that he “believes Metzger is actively recruiting and training other persons to commit crimes on behalf of the white supremacist and anti-government movements.” That’s plain enough. What remains to be seen is if officials can make a case they feel confident bringing to a grand jury.