ADL Condemns White Supremacist Attempts to Exploit Knoxville Murders
Atlanta, Ga, May 29, 2007 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today condemned white supremacist organizations' attempts to inflame racial tensions by asserting that two brutal murders in Knoxville, Tennessee, were hate crimes despite the fact that law enforcement authorities say there is no evidence to support those claims.
The victims, 21-year-old Channon Christian and her 23-year-old boyfriend Christopher Newsom, were kidnapped, tortured and murdered in the early morning hours of January 7, according to Knoxville police. Christian and Newsom were white, the five suspects in custody are black, but prosecutors say there is no evidence that the victims were targeted because of their race.
"The murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were horrifying crimes," said ADL Southeast Regional Director Bill Nigut. "Attempts by white supremacist to exploit the murders for the purpose of undermining legitimate hate crimes prosecutions are reprehensible."
ADL has found that hate groups are using Web sites, Internet forums and blogs to accuse Knoxville authorities of reverse discrimination because the suspects have not been charged under Tennessee's hate crimes statute. In addition, various neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups have claimed that the murders of Mr. Newsom and Ms. Christian are being ignored by the media and authorities because the victims are white. Last weekend, extremists held a rally in Knoxville at which they made similar claims and tried to incite racial tensions.
The Knox County district attorney's office and local Knoxville police have repeatedly stated that they believe the murders stemmed from a random carjacking that turned deadly. According to Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen, "We have no evidence to support the notion that this was a race-based crime. We see this as a cold-blooded murder."
Nigut said that ADL is monitoring the investigations of the murders closely. "If police turn up any evidence indicating that these were hate crimes, ADL will be in the forefront of those calling for application of the Tennessee hate crimes statutes in the prosecution of the suspects," he said.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.