On August 13th, 2007, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson sentenced former National Alliance Chairman Shaun Walker and former Alliance member Eric Egbert to prison terms for "conspiring to interfere with civil rights" and "interfering with a Federally-protected activity" stemming from two separate bar fights with non-whites in 2002 and 2003. Another participant, Travis Massey, had his sentence postponed after he requested a new attorney. Full story published in the Deseret Morning News; additional stories published in the Salt Lake Tribune and aired on KSL Channel 5. A Google search also tipped me off to a couple of highly useful blogs which consolidated posts and media links during both the indictment and trial phases of the case.
Judge Benson, considering Shaun Walker the ringleader and buying off on federal prosecutors' lurid claim that the trio plotted the beating of the two victims as part of an overall campaign to start a "race war" by intimidating "non-whites." sentenced Shaun Walker to 87 months (7 years and 3 months) out of a maximum possible sentence of 108 months under federal sentencing guidelines.
In contrast, Judge Benson, acknowledging Eric Egbert's lesser role and moved somewhat by Egbert's statement that he was now a different person longer interested in the Cause, sentenced Egbert to "only" 42 months out of a possible 51 month maximum.
Here's the basic sequence of events for those unfamiliar with the history of the case. The first incident took place on New Year's Eve (December 31st) 2002. According to the indictment and trial testimony, Walker, Massey, and Egbert visited the O'Shucks bar and started handing out stickers calling for a stop to all immigration by "non-whites," saying they "are turning America into a Third World slum ... they come for welfare or to take our jobs." The stickers also referred to minorities as "messy," "disruptive," "noisy" and said they "multiply rapidly."
When other patrons became upset, James Ballesteros, a Mexican-American who was the O'Shucks bar manager at the time, asked the three men to leave. While escorting the men out of the bar, Ballesteros said he was grabbed by one of the men and dragged outside the bar, then, while one man held the door to the bar shut so others could not interfere, the other two beat Ballesteros "black and blue".
In the second incident which took place on March 15th, 2003, Massey and another man, Keith Cotter, assaulted an American Indian man at the Port O'Call bar in Salt Lake City. A witness testified she saw Cotter and Massey beat the man and leave him unconscious in the middle of an intersection.
Yet despite these incidents, which would certainly seem to meet the State of Utah's definition of assault and battery, there's no record of either of the victims attempting to press charges or the State of Utah ever filing charges of assault against Walker, Massey, and Egbert. So why would the Feds of all people suddenly resurrect this issue nearly three years later?
Enter Keith Cotter, stage left. In March 2005, Cotter allegedly beat a black man, leaving him hospitalized with injuries from punches, kicks, and from being struck with a beer bottle. Eager to save his skin after being arrested, Cotter immediately struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors in exchange for serving up Walker, Massey, and Egbert on a silver platter. The feds then began to prepare their cases against the three men, and in June 2006, convinced a grand jury to indict them.
After being arrested in June 2006, Walker, Massey, and Egbert were released on their own recognizance on condition that they cease all contact with white supremacists. In addition, Walker, who was extradited from West Virginia, had to secure a residence in the local area to qualify for release. Click HERE for a detailed series of posts from the Alaska Pride blog discussing the indictment phase.
On Tuesday April 17th, 2007, the four-day trial began. The star government witness was the informer, Keith Cotter. Not only did he testify to his participation in the Port O'Call fight, but also claimed that Walker wanted to use this type of activity to send an intimidating message to non-whites. Cotter even told lurid tales about "RAHOWA", an acronym for "racial holy war", most commonly used amongst Creators (members of the World Church of Creativity).
A second National Alliance member, Brad Callahan, also testified that Walker, Massey and Egbert returned to Walker's home on New Year's Eve 2002, bragging about beating up the bar owner. However, Callahan did not participate in this, only hearing it secondhand, so his testimony should have been considered hearsay.
Throughout the entire trial, defense attorneys for the men characterized the assaults as drunken brawls that had nothing to do with race. But the defense strategy did not work. On April 20th, 2007, after just five hours deliberations, the jury found Shaun Walker, Travis Massey, and Eric Egbert guilty on all counts. Click HERE for a detailed series of posts from the Alaska Pride blog discussing the trial phase.
After the sentencing, Walker's attorney, Robin Ljungberg, said the National Alliance's literature does not condone violence and said his client had a spotless criminal record and "never crossed the street the wrong way." Ljungberg also said Walker no longer wants to be involved with the National Alliance. "He was playing with fire, frankly, in the past," Ljungberg said.
However, in spite of both of the men stating that they have changed and left the National Alliance, U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman said neither of them took responsibility for their actions before the court. Tolman further stated that with Utah's minority population growing, prosecuting hate crimes based on race will be a priority for his office, adding new residents to Utah need to feel welcome here.
However, Tolman himself has been the center of controversy in the past, having surreptitiously worked for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales while officially serving as a counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here's a snippet from the DownWithTyranny blog:
Tolman was a counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee when they were reauthorizing the so-called "Patriot Act" in 2005-06. He reported to Snarlin' Arlen-- or at least that is what Specter believed. Specter was unaware of the Bush Regime's tight-knit "Mormon Mafia" operated by Karl Rove at the heart of the U.S. government. He learned the hard way.
One night, before passage of the bill, Tolman surreptitiously inserted a paragraph into the legislation that basically removed Senate oversight and approval of replacements for U.S. Attorneys. Tolman didn't ask Specter and didn't tell Specter or, as far as we know, any other senators. He just snuck it into the bill and none of them knew they were voting for that provision. Is that embarrassing, or what? I think so. And I think it plays a role in why the senators have been pretty mum on this episode. And what made it worse is that the Senate unanimously approved Bush's nomination of Tolman, soon after... as U.S. Attorney for Utah!
When Specter finally did discover he had been duped by Tolman and tried to get to the bottom of it, all he was told was that Tolman had acted on behalf of the Justice Department! No names. The question remains, did Rove tell Tolman to do it directly or did he use Gonzales as his messenger boy?
Ironic that someone as apparently ethically-challenged as Tolman is passing judgment on the ability of others to take responsibility.
Commentary: Based on the description of the encounters, one could make a case for a guilty verdict for assault & battery. Perhaps a six-month sentence for Eric Egbert, and, since Shaun Walker was the chairman of a white advocacy group at the time, maybe 1-2 years for him. But 87 months? That's like using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito.
Assuming, of course, that the events took place as testified. The jury's overreliance on the testimony of an incarcerated snitch contaminates the judicial process. Keith Cotter would have a greater incentive to tell the court what prosecutors wanted to hear rather than what actually occurred. Thus there's a danger that Cotter not only embellished the roles of the others, but may have minimized his own role.
Popularity played a role in this case. White supremacism, or, more precisely, white nationalism, is a politically unpopular philosophy. Through years of propagandizing, people have been taught to relegate white nationalists to the same level as pedophiles and grave robbers. The fact that a white nationalist may engage in civil discourse and work for peaceful and constitutional implementation is irrelevant in this society; once you're tagged with the title "racist", and you're white, you're damned. Someone like Curtis Allgier is presented as the prototypical white nationalist, even though their ranks also contain the scholarly and courtly Jared Taylor, publisher of American Renaissance.
Shaun Walker and Eric Egbert were convicted and sentenced much more for their politics than for their acions.