Two Southern California skinhead leaders who had plotted to start a race war have been sentenced to prison.
The young men, who called themselves Fourth Reich Skinheads, received prison sentences even after they and juvenile cohorts convicted in the plot underwent a three-day sensitivity program that included viewing the film "Schindler’s List."
Christopher Fisher, 20, the group’s leader, was sentenced to eight years and one month in prison. His co-defendant, Carl Daniel Boese, 17, received a sentence of four years and nine months. Both had pleaded guilty to reduced charges of making and using explosives for criminal purposes.
The two were arrested in July as part of a widely publicized sweep of white supremacists in Southern California. The sweep also netted a half-dozen members of two other racist groups, the White Aryan Resistance and the Church of the Creator, a pseudo-Christian sect that preaches that blacks, Jews and others are evil.
After an 18-month surveillance by the FBI that included infiltrating the skinhead group, the subjects were arrested in time to prevent enacting of the first part of Fisher’s plan, which was to kill Rodney King, the black motorist whose beating by white police officers and the policemen’s subsequent acquittals incited mass riots in Los Angeles.
The racists’ plot also included blowing up a landmark black church and machine- gunning its congregation, and sending letter bombs to prominent Jews in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.
Fisher admitted that he and his followers had vandalized a synagogue in the town of Westminster and bombed two houses and a car. No one was injured in the attacks.
As part of plea bargains by Fisher and Boese, the chief federal prosecutor, Marc Greenberg, proposed that they and 10 teen-age white supremacists be exposed to a three-day program of counseling and discussions, primarily at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles but also with representatives of the American Jewish Committee.
As part of the program, the skinheads talked with Holocaust survivors, met with rabbis and black ministers, held discussions with teen-agers from minority groups and viewed "Schindler’s List," the Steven Spielberg film about the Holocaust.
The skinheads also met with convicted murderers and other inmates at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles, an experience that seemed to have made the strongest impression on the group. Results of the novel experiment, which was reported at length on the front pages of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, are not yet apparent or clear-cut.
Some of the youngsters seemed to show genuine contrition, while others remained defiant. One participant asked if the term "kosher" referred to tainted meat, and questioned how much of the proceeds of a $1 candy bar would go to Jews.
Evaluating the three-day course, Greenberg said, "I don’t know if this will work or what kind of impact it will have. But at least we tried." Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, observed that the sentences imposed on Fisher and Boese "sent an important signal to young people who may think it cool to be racists. The signal is that society takes hate crimes very seriously."