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  Five Men Charged in Racially Motivated Attack in Missouri
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Posted: February 10, 2004

On February 4, 2004, a federal indictment was unsealed in Springfield, Missouri, accusing five men, three of whom have alleged ties to white supremacist groups, of attacking two African-American men at a Denny's restaurant.

The indictment, handed down on January 26 after a two-and-a-half-year investigation, alleges that Steven A. Heldenbrand, Kenneth F. Johnsen, Mark T. Kooms, Michael S. McCormick, and Michael A. Osorio conspired to injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate the two men. Osorio is from California; the others are from Missouri.

Allegedly, the incident, which occurred in the early hours of June 17, 2001, began after the African-American men arrived at the restaurant accompanied by girlfriends who were white. The indictment charges that after an exchange of words, an altercation broke out and one of the African-American men, Maurice Wilson, was stabbed three times, and the other victim, Kenny Wright, suffered less severe injuries. Witnesses described the five alleged attackers as wearing Aryan Nations shirts and having swastika tattoos.

Kooms is charged with unlawful use of a weapon motivated by race, first-degree assault, armed criminal action and third-degree assault motivated by race. The four other men are charged with third-degree assault motivated by race. Additional assault and hate crime charges were filed against the five men by the state of Missouri in January.

According to authorities, Kooms and McCormick are members of the Springfield-based Midland Hammerskins, a branch of the Hammerskin Nation, the most violent and best-organized neo-Nazi skinhead group in the U.S. Heldenbrand, currently serving time in prison for violating his probation, is a member of the Ku Klux Klan, authorities said.

The charges are the first federal civil rights prosecutions filed in Springfield.

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