LOS ANGELES (Oct. 29)
Veteran white supremacist Tom Metzger, leader of the White Aryan Resistance, was convicted Monday for his role in a 1983 cross-burning ceremony in suburban Los Angeles.
Although a Superior Court jury found Metzger guilty on only one misdemeanor charge of unlawful assembly, the verdict represents his first criminal conviction during decades of anti-black and anti-Jewish activities. He faces up to six months in jail.
After an 11-week trial and six days of jury deliberation, jurors deadlocked on two other counts, including a more serious felony charge of violating fire codes. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to retry Metzger on the two charges.
He stood trial with three other men, who were convicted on felony and misdemeanor counts and face up to four years in prison. They are Stanley Witek, leader of the neo-Nazi National Socialist American Workers Party; Erich Schmidt; and Brad Kelly.
The trial of Metzger, a former grand dragon of the California Ku Klux Klan, stemmed from a ceremony in December 1983 during which 15 men joined in shouting racist slogans, giving Nazi salutes and burning three huge crosses in a canyon overlooking the community of Lake View Terrace.
Prosecutors charged that the cross-burning was intended to provoke violent clashes, unite several white racist groups, and intimidate residents of the racially mixed community.
The cross-burning was videotaped by a freelance journalist who had infiltrated the group, and the tape was introduced at the trial.
It showed Richard Butler, head of the Idaho-based Aryan Nations, leading a “prayer” and proclaiming: “So long as the alien occupies your land, hate is your law and revenge is your first duty. We light these crosses in the name of God, over the Luciferian scum of the Earth.”
Throughout the trial, prosecutors bored in on the goals of the white supremacist movement. During cross-examination of Butler, who appeared as a defense witness, he emphasized the need for a separate white state and maintained that the Holocaust never happened.
Although Metzger has never faced criminal charges before, last year he lost a $12.5 million judgment in a civil suit brought by the family of an Ethiopian man who was beaten to death by Oregon Skinheads allegedly inspired by Metzger.
Metzger, 53, appeared pleased by the outcome of the trial.
Deputy District Attorney Dale Davidson said that while Metzger deserved a harsher sentence the verdict sends a message that racist behavior will not be tolerated in Los Angeles County.