When he set out to build a radiation gun concealed in a van to kill Muslims he deemed “medical waste,” Glendon Scott Crawford had lofty visions of what his weapon would be. “Hiroshima on a light switch,” the Klansman said, before spending years using straw buyers, code names and throwaway “burner” phones to get the necessary hardware.
On Monday, federal prosecutors began outlining the endless turns and persistent vision Crawford, 51, dedicated to the two years he spent trying to build a weaponized x-ray device in the back of a van to park in “the Muslim section of town” and fire at will.
“This will kill anything with respiration,” Crawford said to undercover sources, according to U.S. attorney Stephen Green’s opening arguments as Crawford’s trial got underway Monday in Albany, N.Y. “I'm glad to have met you guys and I’m glad you share my vision.”
A member of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — a secret he kept from even his family — Crawford spent two years working to build his device. Prosecutors say he met with two Jewish organizations in New York state, and Klan leaders in the South, to find financing for the device, which would kill people silently from a distance by exposing them to lethal doses of ionized radiation. His targets included Muslims, Muslim-related organizations, people he thought were ruining the United States, even the White House.
A Joint Terrorism Task Force began monitoring and recording much of Crawford’s personal and digital communications after he went to Congregation Gates of Heaven, a synagogue in Schenectady, N.Y., and “asked to speak with a person who might be willing to help him with a type of technology that could be used by Israel to defeat its enemies while they slept,” according to a criminal complaint filed against Crawford in 2013.
On Monday, Kathryn Laws, an administrative assistant at the congregation, testified she was concerned by Crawford’s visit. “He had a plan to help Jews get rid of their enemies. I told him we don't really have any direct contact with Israel," Laws testified. "He seemed like an unstable person and I was trying to get him out of the building without making him angry.” She directed Crawford to visit the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York.
Robin Margolis, who was executive director of the foundation then, testified that Crawford approached them about a "black bag operation.”
“He said he wanted to help Israel and he had off-the-shelf technology that would kill Israel’s enemies as they slept,” Margolis testified.
But defense attorney Kevin Luibrand said those concerns were never justified. Crawford was a high-school educated family man with 25 years working for General Electric as a mechanic under his belt and legitimate concern about Islamic terrorism, he said. Stories of terrorist attacks scared him, and he was only trying to develop a weapon to help.
“The complete book on Scott Crawford is a piece of paper, an idea and some strong political beliefs,” Luibrand said in his opening statements on Wednesday. “Scott was a big talker.”
The criminal complaint against Crawford, however, demonstrates much more than talk. After meeting with two Jewish organizations in April 2012, which put him on the radar for law enforcement, Crawford turned his attention to the radical right.
In August that year, Crawford drove from New York to North Carolina to meet with Chris Barker of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Crawford was unaware that Barker, who had been caught up with federal weapons charges, was also helping the FBI. During their meeting, Barker introduced Crawford to two FBI agents he said were wealthy coal mining executives itching to finance the scheme.
Crawford threw himself into his work afterward, holding meetings and recruiting the help of an accomplice, Eric Feight, who he called a “genius.” Together the two fantasized about eliminating “undesirables,” which they also called “medical waste.” At one point, according to the FBI, they thought to paint “Halal Chicken” on the side of the van to draw Muslims closer to it.
The two men were both arraigned in 2013. Feight, a GE contractor, pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges in January 2014. He agreed to spend no more than 15 years in prison as part of a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony against Crawford, but his sentence could be reduced significantly.
Crawford faces charges of attempting to produce a radiological device, conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and distribution of information related to weapons of mass destruction. His trial is expected to last through the week.