LOS ANGELES (Dec. 3)
Jewish groups here have hailed the conviction of white supremacist Tom Metzger, who was sentenced Monday to six months in jail for participating in a cross-burning ceremony in a Los Angeles suburb eight years ago.
Organizational leaders say the sentence shows a toughening attitude toward racist hate crimes, although at least one official criticized the lightness of the sentence.
It is the first jail sentence in recent years for Metzger, the founder and leader of the White Aryan Resistance, or WAR, who has been engaged in extensive racist and anti-Semitic activities for decades.
But a judgment of $9 million was rendered last year against Metzger, his son John and WAR for inciting the 1988 killing of an Ethiopian man in Portland, Ore.
As part of the California sentence, Metzger, who is also a former grand dragon of the California Ku Klux Klan, was fined $200 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service with organizations that work with minorities or in a hospital.
David Lehrer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, described the sentence as “a victory for the Los Angeles community, as well as other communities across the country, which have been victimized by white supremacist hate-mongers.”
And Michael Hirschfeld, assistant director of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angelles, said, “The California legislature–which recently passed a hate-crimes bill — and other legislative bodies are sending a clear signal that such offenses will no longer be tolerated.”
But Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, felt that the six-month sentence for Metzger “was some-what light, considering what is going on, and could have been more severe.”
But at least, he said, it “is a clear warning to people of Metzger’s ilk.”
At the Simon Wiesenthal Center, senior research associate Aaron Breitbart said, “I doubt whether hard-core haters like Metzger will ever change in their hearts, but at least they can be prevented from inflicting their poison on society.”
TWO OTHERS SENTENCED TO JAIL
Metzger was sentenced following an 11-week trial, in which a jury convicted him on one misdemeanor count of unlawful assembly, but deadlocked on a more serious felony charge.
The trial stemmed from a ceremony held exactly eight years ago, on Dec. 3, 1983, in which 15 men joined in shouting racist slogans, giving Nazi salutes and burning three huge crosses in a canyon overlooking the Los Angeles suburb of Lake View Terrace.
Prosecutors charged that the ceremony was intended to provoke violent clashes, unite white racist groups, and intimidate black and other 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.
One segment on the tape showed a racist “prayer” delivered by Richard Butler, head of the Idaho-based Aryan Nations and its associated Church of Jesus Christ Christian, a white supremacist, “Christian Identity” church.
In his benediction, Butler said, “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.”
Metzger was unrepentant after the sentencing. He told reporters, “We realize that the white separation movement and people who stand up for white working people” who “don’t apologize for their beliefs are going to be hammered all the way down the line. But nothing is going to change.”
“Each time they knock one of us down, there are a thousand more who will rise up,” he said.
Two co-defendants in the trial, who were convicted on a more serious felony count, also received six-month jail sentences and were ordered to perform 300 hours of community work in Watts, a poor, largely black section of Los Angeles.
They are Stanley Witek, reputed leader of the neo-Nazi National Socialist American Workers Party, and Brad Kelly, who has no known organization affiliation.
As part of their three-year probation, the three defendants were ordered by Superior Court Judge J.D. Smith not to associate with white supremacist organizations.
Asked later by reporters whether he would obey the terms of probation, Metzger hesitated and then inquired, “You mean I can’t support David Duke?”
He was referring to the Louisiana state legislator who, although recently defeated in his bid to become governor of Louisiana, is now poised to run, again, for president.
Metzger’s group, WAR, spreads its racist messages through a cable television program, “Race and Reason,” an international fax and telephone network, leaflets and speeches.