MIAMI (Oct. 21)
A member of an extremist group accused of plotting to murder several Miami Jewish leaders was given a six-year prison term here this weekend for possessing and transporting explosives. Previously he tad been sentenced to a similar term for plotting the bombing of the An she Emet Synagogue here.
Criminal Court Judge Gene Williams imposed the second six-year term on Donald Branch following his conviction on the explosives charge. Two Miami detectives testified in the second trial that Branch swore in his Jail cell he intended to kill Dade County’s State Attorney General Richard Gerstein; the latter’s two assistants, Arthur Huttoe and Roy Lee Jones; and two police officers.
Branch was one of three members of a group of “minutemen” on trial. The second member of the trio, George Victer, 50, was sentenced in the earlier trial to three years for possession of explosives. The third man, Michael Babey, was acquitted. Branch is facing a third trial on November 28 on charges of placing explosives last February 18 at the home of Don Shoemaker, editor of the Miami Herald.
In the trial which led to Branch’s second conviction and sentencing, Detective Keith Hardin testified that Branch vowed to “out the throats” of Dade County School Board member Jack Gordon and civic leader William Singer, both of whom are Jewish, as is Gerstein. Hardin testified he heard Branch make those threats when he, Hardin, was “Jailed” in Branch’s cell on a contrived charge of passing worthless checks.
The other detective, James A. Haddad, similarly smuggled into Branch’s cell on an imaginary auto theft charge, testified that Branch out a Star of David symbol from a piece of paper and stuck a razor in the middle of it. The two detectives testified that Branch “reeked with anti-Semitic hatred.”