Domestic terrorist and card-carrying Klansman in New York accused of building an X-ray gun to kill “undesirables" convicted on weapons of mass destruction charges.
The only argument his attorney hoped would save Glendon Scott Crawford –– a card carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan with dreams of building a radiation gun to kill Muslims –– was that a jury wouldn’t call a man a domestic terrorist if he only had an idea.
“The complete book on Scott Crawford is a piece of paper, an idea and some strong political beliefs,” Kevin Luibrand said in opening arguments during the trial last week in Albany, N.Y. He reiterated the claim later. “[If]Crawford is guilty of anything, it is proliferating information.”
But after five days of testimony that focused on Crawford’s efforts to build the weapon, a jury in U.S. District Court in Albany, N.Y., saw otherwise.
Last Friday, after three hours of deliberation, Crawford, 51, of Galway, N.Y., was found guilty of three felony counts: using a weapon of mass destruction, distributing information on how to build one, and attempting to build an unlawful radiation device.
“Glendon Scott Crawford was a terrorist who attempted to acquire a weapon of mass destruction and to use it to kill innocent members of the Muslim community,” Richard Hartunian, U.S. attorney for the northern district of New York, said.
The case saw widespread national attention in June of 2013, when federal prosecutors indicted Crawford along with Eric J. Feight, proprietor of Genius Industries Solutions, an independent information technology company. The two met at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y., where Crawford was a high school educated fix-it man who had worked at GE for 20 years.
Crawford had devised a plan to build and sell the weapon to a terrorist organization, according to the FBI, while Feight’s role was to design and build the electronic triggering device that could be used to activate the weapon from a safe distance.
Despite doubts Crawford’s attorney expressed about his ability to actually build the weapon, federal prosecutors insisted Crawford had amassed enough amateur knowledge in radiation technology to build a remote-controlled, mobile, industrial X-ray capable of delivering a deadly dosage of radiation with a keystroke on a laptop connected to the Internet. And if there were any questions about his ability, there were no questions of his intent.
Over days of testimony, prosecutors demonstrated that Crawford, who considered himself a cross between “Forest Gump and Darth Vader” and referred to those he intended to kill as “medical waste, was pushing hard ahead to build the weapon. It was a perfect plan, he told many of those he approached for help. His victims would not know why they were getting sick. Doctors would not know why they died.
The case was listed in a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) study released last February examining the rise of lone wolf domestic terrorism from the radical right. The study looked at 63 incidents of radical right violence between 2009 and 2014 and found that a domestic terrorist attack was either carried out or thwarted every 34 days. More than 74 percent of the cases were the actions of lone wolf offenders.
As it turns out, Crawford was the focus of two federal investigations when he was arrested.
The first began in April 2012, when Crawford contacted two Jewish organizations in upstate New York with requests to get in touch with Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. Crawford wanted to help with a type of technology he claimed could be “used by Israel to defeat its enemies while they slept,” according to a criminal complaint filed against Crawford in 2013.
The visit was enough to concern an administrative assistant at the Congregation Gates of Heaven, a synagogue in Schenectady, N.Y., who testified during his trial.
“He seemed like an unstable person and I was trying to get him out of the building without making him angry,” Kathryn Laws said, adding that she directed him to contact the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, which he did.
The second FBI field office looking into Crawford was in Charlotte, N.C. Agents there began looking four months later, after Crawford contacted the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina looking for help building his radiation gun. At the time, Crawford was unaware the group’s imperial wizard, Chris Barker, was a federal informant cooperating with the FBI in exchange for lenience on federal firearms charges.
In audio recordings Barker created secretly before turning them over to the FBI, Crawford, a card-carrying member of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, excitedly told Barker about his weapon and explained just how it could be used. “It’s a way to set things straight. I think you’ll find it to be your cup of tea,” Crawford told Barker in recordings played during trial.
What followed was a lengthy investigation involving throwaway “burner” phones, a strategic back-and-forth of text messages and meetings between Crawford, confidential federal informants and undercover federal agents. Everyone was trying to figure out just how far Crawford intended to advance his idea, especially as he crisscrossed the nation trying to garner interest in what he had promised would be “Hiroshima on a light switch.”
Crawford even sent an email to Pete Doughtie, publisher of The Rutherford Reader, a weekly conservative newspaper in Rutherford County, Tenn., whose critics have described as “xenophobic” for its positions against the plan to build a mosque in Murfeesboro, Tenn. “I would like to meet with you to offer a discreet and powerful solution to the Third World invasion you are being forced to endure,” Crawford wrote Doughtie.
The case took years to come to trial, but garnered convictions for both Crawford and Feight, who was sentenced in January to 15 years in prison under a plea agreement with prosecutors. In addition to facing 25 years to life in prison, Crawford could face more than $2 million in fines when he is sentenced in December.