NEW YORK (Oct. 6)
Five members of a rightwing tax-protest group with links to a violently anti-Semitic organization were convicted in Las Vegas Friday of threatening the lives of agents of the Internal Revenue Service and a Nevada state judge.
The five are members of the Committee of the States, a group affiliated with the Christian Identity movement, which espouses the belief that the Jews are the children of Satan and which calls the United States government “ZOG”–“Zionist-Occupied Government.” The Committee was formed in 1984 in Mariposa, California.
Convictions Friday in Federal District Court in Las Vegas were meted out to Rev. William Potter Gale, who heads the Ministry of Christ Church in Mariposa and is founder of the Identity movement; Fortunato Parrino, an assistant at the church; Richard Van Hazel of Arizona; and Patrick McCray and his brother George McCray, of Nevada. A sixth defendant, Gary Dolfin of Nevada, pleaded guilty to lesser charges after the trial began.
In addition, two others named in the indictment, Angelo Stefanelli and Susan Kieffer of Nevada, pleaded guilty to reduced charges and agreed to cooperate with the government.
Those convicted face possible maximum sentences of 34 years’ imprisonment and fines of $250,000, according to assistant U.S. prosecuting attorney Richard Pocker.
A WARNING TO EXTREMISTS
The trial was monitored by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in Los Angeles, which has furnished information on the case to law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Betsy Rosenthal, ADL Western states civil rights director, called the verdict a “warning to extremists that the American people will not tolerate their threats of physical harm to our officials and government institutions.”
The ADL had obtained documents from the Committee’s first meeting, among which was a statement warning that any attempt to interfere with the group by any person or government agency would “result in the death penalty being imposed upon conviction by said Committee.”
For many years, the ADL has been monitoring Gale, who has a solidly racist, anti-Semitic resume. According to Rosenthal, it was Gale who first introduced Rev. Richard Butler, leader of the Aryan Nations-Church of Jesus Christ Christian in Hayden Lake, Idaho, to the Identity movement.
In addition, Gale was long viewed as a leader of the Posse Comitatus, an organization of loosely affiliated bands of armed vigilantes. The Posse gained national recognition in 1983 when one of its members, Gordon Kahl, was indicted for killing two U.S. marshalls and later killed himself in a shoot-out with police in Arkansas.
Gale, as a Posse evangelist, supplied tapes for broadcast to radio station KTTL-FM in Dodge City, Kansas, in 1983. He, along with James Wickstrom, another Posse evangelist, also spoke at least one meeting of local farmers stricken by the intense farm crisis and prone to scape-goating Jews and others in a conspiracy against them.
In his broadcasts, Gale espoused violence while invoking God’s name, and urged the collection of dossiers on “every damn Jew rabbi in this land, and every Anti-Defamation League leader or JDL leader in this land.” He is alleged to hold paramilitary training operations, Rosenthal said, adding that Gale had written training manuals for the Posse. She said he is reportedly in poor health.
An assistant to prosecuting attorney Pocker said that Gale is currently free on bail, although Rosenthal said the prosecution had argued that he, and the others, were dangerous and should be imprisoned. Sentencing is scheduled for this week.
OTHER TRIALS PENDING
Trials are still pending for other affiliates of the Identity movement, including 11 nationwide leaders of the Aryan Nations, who were indicted on charges of sedition by a federal grand jury in Fort Smith, Arkansas, about a half year ago and who are scheduled to stand trial in federal court there next year. Among that group is Butler, who is currently free on $100,000 bail.
Also indicted for sedition was Robert Miles, a leader of the Aryan Nations and also involved in other neo-Nazi activities. Miles, who calls himself a minister, was originally convicted of burning school buses during integration of schools in Michigan in the 1960s, for which he served jail time. Miles’ trial is scheduled for next year.
Other members of the Aryan Nations were convicted in recent months in Tucson, Arizona, on charges of counterfeiting and attempting to pass counterfeit notes at a state fair in Spokane, Washington. Trials are scheduled this week for Ed Hawley and David Dorr, implicated in the bombings of several locations in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, in September 1986, including several federal buildings and the home of a Roman Catholic priest and human rights leader. The priest, Father Bill Wassmuth, was home at the time of the bombing and barely escaped with his life.
In addition, a trial is scheduled Oct. 26 in Denver for those accused of the murder of Jewish talk-show host Alan Berg in 1984. The perpetrators were members of The Order, an offshoot group of the Aryan Nations.
In July, the Aryan Nations held its annual conclave in Hayden Lake, which was, Wassmuth told JTA, “much more low-key and less attended” than in past years and primarily focused on fundraising for the trials. “There was much less rhetoric than usual about taking over,” Wassmuth said.
The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, a grass-roots organization which Wassmuth chairs, held a rally as in the past two years to counter the Aryan Nations gathering, to which human rights activists from throughout the Northwest traveled.