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Defendant in Fort Smith Trial Acquitted for Lack of Evidence

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The judge presiding over the Fort Smith, Ark., trial of 14 white supremacists charged with plotting to overthrow the U.S. government has granted one of the defendants his motion for directed verdict of acquittal, because of insufficient evidence in the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Morris Arnold ruled Thursday that there was insufficient evidence to continue to try Robert Smalley, 32, who was charged with seditious conspiracy, according to Larry Lee, a reporter for the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith.

Lee said there is a possibility that defendants William Wade, 69, and David McGuire, 25, also will be acquitted of the charges of conspiring to kill a federal judge and special FBI agent in Arkansas in 1983.

Either party in a trial may receive a directed verdict in its favor if the opposing party fails to present a necessary defense.

Lee, who has been covering the trial since it began Feb. 16, said that Judge Arnold has “persistently asked the government prosecuting attorneys to pare their case down because a lot of the evidence was repetitive.”

On March 10, Judge Arnold reportedly told the prosecuting attorneys that he might have to call a mistrial because they had presented too much “hearsay” evidence that was not subsequently corroborated. The judge has had to frequently instruct the jury to ignore evidence during the proceedings, Lee said.

Smalley, who was tried in the September 1985 Seattle trial of a group called The Order, served about eight months in prison for selling illegal weapons to Randall Rader, 36, a former weapons specialist for The Order and another white supremacist group, The Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA). Rader was called as a government witness in the trial.

ADL, OTHERS CONCERNED

People who monitor the activities of hate groups were concerned at the turn of events in the trial. Irwin Suall, director of the fact-finding department of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, who has observed some of the trial, said, “My impression was that the government had a very strong case.”

But Leonard Zeskind, research director of the Atlanta-based Center for Democratic Renewal, said he was “concerned” by three factors in the trial: “the fact that the government cut in half its witness list of over 200 names; the directed verdict of acquittal; and the fact that Judge Arnold told the prosecuting attorneys there was a possibility of a mistrial because of the lack of corroborative evidence.”

Zeskind explained that the conspiracy charge “hinges on the difference between free speech advocacy and speech which engenders imminent action. The government’s case rests on proving that imminent action was either the intended or even the unintended result of the defendants’ activities.”

The government is expected to rest its case Monday, with the defendants beginning their case following that. Aryan Nations leaders Robert Miles, Richard Butler and Louis Beam are planning to take the stand on their own behalf.

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