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Last Updated August 19, 1999

The Militia Watchdog

 

 

 

 

 

Calendar of Conspiracy, Volume 3, Number 2:  A Chronology of Anti-Government Extremist Criminal Activity, April to June 1999

A Militia Watchdog Special Report

 

INTRODUCTION


The following is a
chronology of some of the events surrounding anti-government criminal activity in the United States during the second quarter of the year 1999.  It illustrates both the scope of such activity—from large-scale acts of terrorism to local acts of harassment and intimidation—and its geographic extent—from major cities like Los Angeles and Orlando to remote rural areas in North Dakota and Pennsylvania.  The chronology is not comprehensive.  Although all major events are included, no systemized reporting system exists for smaller scale events.  As a result, arrests or convictions for charges such as placing bogus liens, impersonating public officials, committing tax-related crimes or similar offenses are considerably underrepresented in this report.  Such activities occur with a very high level of frequency across the nation.  Some examples are included in this chronology to give some indication of the type of activities of this sort that take place.  This report also generally does not include hate crimes, although occasionally extraordinary hate crimes are reported, because the line sometimes blurs between hate crimes and other extremist criminal activity.  This report includes events from thirty-one states (and one foreign country) but activity occurs in every state in the country.

  

APRIL

April 5, 1999, Wyoming:  Russell Henderson pleads guilty to felony murder and kidnapping for the slaying of Matthew Shepard in October 1998.  Shepard, a gay college student, was abducted, brutally beaten, and left exposed tied to a fence to die.  Aaron McKinney, also charged in the offense, will be tried in August on first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery charges, and could face the death penalty if convicted.  Henderson faces up to two life sentences because of the plea.

April 8, 1999, California:   A southern California jury delivers two acquittals and one guilty verdict in a robbery case involving three members of the racist group known as the Nazi Lowriders.  James Mowatt is convicted on three counts of first degree residential robbery, but the jury deadlocks on co-defendant Amber Marie Perez and acquits Dennis James Hawkins.  Mowatt faces up to forty years in prison.  The Nazi Lowriders are a white supremacist prison gang that has spread beyond the walls of prisons. 

April 8, 1999, Ohio:  Southern Ohio resident Thomas Jeffrey Frisby is charged with promoting an illegal scheme to evade income taxes.  Frisby, a member of the tax protest organization The Pilot Connection Society, also started his own group, The Freedom Connection, to promote the concept of “untaxing.”

April 8, 1999, Illinois:  In an effort to crack down on tax evaders, Illinois officials announce indictments against seventeen people from four counties.  Among those charged are several tax protesters, including Darrel Mathis, who refused to file income tax returns from 1994 to 1997.

April 11, 1999, Colorado:  An unknown arsonist sets fire to the Internal Revenue Service office in Colorado Springs.  Two years ago, another IRS building in Colorado Springs caused more than $1 million in damage.  That arson was never solved.

April 12, 1999, Wisconsin:  Minister Wilfred F. Benzing and his wife, Sharon, and daughter, Jessica, are arrested on charges related to an altercation with a Washington County sheriff’s deputy.  Wilfred Benzing faces a felony charge of recklessly endangering another’s safety, related to his allegedly taking a swing at the deputy’s head with a golf club, as well as misdemeanor counts of resisting an officer and intentionally attempting to cause bodily harm to an officer.  Sharon and Jessica were arrested for resisting or obstructing an officer.  A teenage son, Nathaniel Benzing, is wanted on the same charge.  The Benzings are tax protesters and constitutionalists who have filed many bogus documents.  The incident occurred when Jessica refused to pull over when an officer caught her speeding and instead drove to her home.  An altercation followed when the office learned that the elder Benzing was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant and tried to arrest him.

April 13, 1999, Texas:  Two North Carolina Klansmen are indicted by a grand jury in Texas on two charges of attempted capital murder.  Jimmy Ray Shelton and Eddie Melvin Bradley allegedly tried to kill a sheriff’s deputy and a patrolman during a chase in March. 

April 14, 1999, Illinois:  Eric D. Hanson is convicted of a felony hate crime, misdemeanor assault, and disorderly conduct, for following a mixed-race couple, using racial epithets against them, and threatening to strike the African-American man.  The admitted white separatist, who claimed he was only being “politically incorrect,” faces up to three years in prison.

April 14, Ohio, Kentucky:  White supremacist Kale Kelly is arrested in southwest Ohio and charged with illegal possession of firearms as a convicted felon.   The Aryan Nations member is suspected of having been involved in some sort of bomb plot, causing federal authorities to search the property of a Klan leader in Kentucky and to subpoena numerous members to appear before a grand jury.

April 15, 1999, Michigan:  Militia member Matthew Vinuya pleads guilty to federal counts following his arrest in March on federal conspiracy, weapons and accessory after-the-fact charges related to his role in a plot by members of a militia group to threaten to assault and murder federal officers and workers.  Seeking a plea agreement, Vinuya admits he removed and safeguarded weapons, drugs and other items belong to another militia member after that member was arrested.  Vinuya faces up to five years in prison, but the government is recommending a reduced sentence for his cooperation.

April 17, 1999, Illinois:  Eric Hanson, only days after being convicted of a hate crime (see above), is arrested and charged with illegal possession of weapons.  Police also find ammunition, food rations and sleeping bags, leading them to suspect he was planning to skip town before his sentence.

April 20, 1999, Florida:  Dentist Milton McIlwain and his officer manager Wanza Webb are indicted by a federal grand jury on nine counts of tax evasion.  The Orlando-area residents transferred more than $1 million into bogus trust accounts to conceal income and peppered the Internal Revenue Service with letters containing frivolous tax protest arguments.  Webb is the mother of former Longwood police officer Gene Webb, sentenced to two years in prison in 1996 on tax charges.  Web claimed to be a “sovereign citizen” with no ties to the government.

April 22, 1999, Indiana, California:  Jerry Thorstad, head of a group called Constitutional Colleagues in Granite, is arrested by Evansville police for extradition to California, where he is charged with defrauding customers.  Supporters of Thorstad claim that he merely runs a multilevel marketing company distributing educational materials about the U.S. Constitution, but authorities claim that he is operating an illegal pyramid scheme.

April 23, 1999, North Carolina:  Three tax protesters are found guilty of conspiracy and procuring the preparation of false income tax returns by a federal jury in Raleigh.  The trio, Jessie L. Jackson, David M. Crudup, and James Sturdavant, Jr., were members of an extremist group known as “We the People.”  They held meetings beginning in late 1994 in which they told attendees that the income tax was voluntary and that We the People could prepare their federal and state tax returns.  The men actually falsified the returns and charged 10 percent fees on refunds.  Each could received up to 35 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.

April 23, 1999, Florida:  A grand jury in Clearwater, Florida, indicts self-described neo-Nazi skinhead Jessy Joe Roten on charges of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder, enhanced as a hate crime, for a shooting spree with an assault rifle in an alley behind his house which resulted in the death of a six-year-old mixed race girl and the wounding of her two sisters, who were shot when the bullets penetrated the walls of a home along the alley.

April 23, 1999, Tennessee:  A man, not identified by authorities, tries to file bogus liens against area judges in Hamilton County, Tennessee (where Chattanooga is located), including U.S. District Judge R. Allan Edgar and Chattanooga City Court Judge Walter Williams.  When Register of Deeds employees refuse to file the liens, the man begins to make threats to “get even with everybody”  and to “take matters into his own hands.” Workers abandon their desks and huddle in a backroom until a corrections officer, responding to a call for help, removes the man from the building.  Amazingly, the man was not detained.

April 26, 1999, Mississippi:  William J. Kelty of Clinton, Mississippi, is convicted of filing false claims and obstructing the Internal Revenue Service for trying to use bogus Montana Freemen checks to pay his taxes.  Kelty owed 11 years and more than $200,000 worth of taxes, but sent the IRS a bogus check for $565,494 and asked for a refund of $360,470.

April 26, 1999, Utah:  Tax protester Robert D. Daugherty pleads guilty in a plea bargain to one court of willful evasion of income tax and failing to file a tax return (he had originally been charged with ten counts and faced up to fifteen years in prison), gaining a sentence of two months in jail and three years of probation.

April 27, 1999, Washington:  Constitutionalist Randall L. Glessner, a former certified public accountant, is arrested on 27 counts related to falsifying more than 150 tax returns for others.  Glessner, a “sovereign citizen,” claims not to be “Mr. Glessner” when brought into court.  He faces up to six years in prison and $105,000 in fines.

April 30, 1999, California, Oklahoma, Florida:  A federal jury finds two California businessmen, Ronald Sparks and Owen Stephenson guilty of more than twenty counts each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.  The two had set up a bogus bank allegedly chartered by the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma which they claimed could shield transactions from federal authorities.  They defrauded investors of nearly $8 million.  The banks former president, Brian Condon of Orlando, Florida, who had pled guilty the previous year, testified against them.  According to prosecutors, Sparks had contacts with the Montana Freemen and had designed the bank to appeal to right-wing extremists opposed to the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Service.

April 30, 1999, Massachusetts:  John Sweeney receives a contempt conviction for his role in a nine-month standoff during which he refused to leave his east-Massachusetts mansion, repossessed by the FDIC following a default on a $1.6 million bank loan.  Militia members patrolled the grounds until federal marshals finally arrested Sweeney in February 1998.

 

MAY

May 4, 1999, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Idaho, Ohio:  White supremacists Chevie Kehoe and Daniel Lee are convicted on racketeering, conspiracy and three murder charges, relating to their attempts to overthrow the federal government and set up an Aryan People’s Republic in the Pacific Northwest.  Their crimes included a bombing in Spokane, Washington, the murder of an Arkansas gun dealer, his wife, and their eight-year-old daughter in 1996, and two murders in Idaho.  Kehoe’s brother, Cheyne Kehoe, was also involved, but turned himself in and cooperated with authorities.  He is serving a lengthy prison sentence.

May 6, 1999, New York, Vermont:  Anti-abortion activist James Kopp, recently from St. Albans, Vermont, but currently a fugitive from justice, is charged second-degree murder in the assassination of abortion doctor Barnett Slepian in October 1998.

May 7, 1999, Ohio:  Aryan Nations member Kale Kelly pleads guilty to illegal possessions of firearms as a convicted felon, but backs out of a written plea agreement to cooperate with federal authorities investigating a possible bomb or assassination plot.  He faces up to ten years in prison.

May 10, 1999, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Idaho, Ohio:  Chevie Kehoe (see above) is sentenced to life in prison without parole.

May 11, 1999, Connecticut:  Seven people are arrested (and one more will be arrested on May 12) at the headquarters of a small group calling itself “the Brotherhood of White Supremacists.”  Suspects allegedly robbed two people in their apartment and are charged with various offenses related to the robbery.  Strangely, one of the suspects is African-American.

May 13, 1999, Colorado:  Following a high-speed chase, police arrest anti-government extremist Jack Modig after authorities spotted him near the Denver-area Colorado Islamic Center.  Modig had a numerous weapons and bomb-making materials in the car, leading police to suspect he was planning to destroy the Center.  Modig is an active member of the common law court movement in Colorado.  He is charged with possession of explosive devices, carrying concealed weapons, eluding a police vehicle and three counts of attempted vehicular assault.

May 13, 1999, Ohio:  Common law court activist Larry Roten is found guilty of resisting arrest by a Lebanon Municipal Court.  He was arrested following a three-month search for him, as he also faces trial on charges of intimidation and using “sham legal process” for threatening to file a bogus lien against a county prosecutor.  It took three officers to arrest Roten.

May 14, 1999, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Idaho, Ohio:  Daniel Lee (see above), is sentenced to death by a Little Rock, Arkansas, jury.

May 15, 1999, Alaska:  Palmer, Alaska, police officer James Rowland is killed during a shootout following a traffic stop.  The suspect in the killing, Kim Cook, is allegedly an anti-government extremist.  He is subsequently charged with first degree murder.

May 15, 1999, Utah:  Eric Millerberg is arrested for pistol-whipping and threatening to kill a Hispanic family in the Salt Lake City, Utah, area.  Millerberg, a known racist with a criminal record, assaulted a man and woman and slapped their three-year-old daughter.  A second participant has not been charged, while a third is still being sought. 

May 17, 1999, Florida:  Francis J. Gilroy is arrested in West Palm Beach following a traffic stop confrontation.  Gilroy was pulled over for failing to signal a turn, but refused to provide identification or cooperate with deputies.  Police then seized assault rifles and a hoard of ammunition in his van.  Gilroy was associated with various groups, including the “Florida Patriots” and the “North Carolina Patriots,” as well as various militia groups.

May 20, 1999, Michigan:  North American Militia member Kenneth Carter is sentenced to five years in prison for his role in a bombing plot.  Carter had pled guilty in 1998 to conspiracy charged.  His sentence is considered lenient because he cooperated with the government following his arrest.

May 20, 1999, Illinois:  White supremacist Eric Hanson (see above) receives a sentence of one year for his role in a hate crime against a biracial couple.  Hanson was allegedly the member of a racist group called the Christian Alliance.

May 20, 1999, Ohio:  Aryan Nations “captain” David Dean Ellis is arrested in Dayton following a report of a man assaulting a woman in the street.  Ellis is the most recent of a number of arrests of Aryan Nations members in Ohio on various charges.

May 24, 1999, Idaho:  Former Aryan Nations security chief Edward Warfield receives a two to five year sentence for aiding and abetting aggravated assault, to which he pled guilty as part of a plea bargain.  Warfield and two others, still fugitives, had assaulted two people whose car had stopped in front of the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho.

May 25, 1999, Michigan:  North American Militia leader Brad Metcalf receives a forty year prison sentence, without the possibility of parole, for his role in a plot to blow up government buildings and to threaten to assault and murder federal officers. 

May 26, 1999, North Dakota:  Avone Kukla, of Dickinson, North Dakota, pleads guilty to one count of tax evasion for failing to pay more than $57,000 in taxes during the 1990s.  Instead, Kukla sent the Internal Revenue Service a bogus check from the Montana Freemen for $536,000, along with a demand for a refund of the excess.  The plea was part of a bargain with prosecutors.

May 26, 1999, Ohio:  Two white supremacists are sentenced to lengthy prison terms for conspiring to rob banks in Lorain and Summit counties.  William Luther receives a 34 year sentence while Scott Smith receives a term of 13 years.  Two of Luther’s brothers had previously been sentenced.

May 26, 1999, Wisconsin:  James Langenbach is charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide and causing great bodily harm to a child as a hate crime for his allegedly driving his car up onto a sidewalk in order to run over two African-American youths riding bicycles.  When Langenbach’s car was searched following the May 16 incident, writings were found in his car that included the statement, “I’m here to get this white/black race B.S. started and it looks like I did.”  Eight years ago Langenbach was convicted of a similar crime for twice ramming a van with African-American passengers.

May 27, 1999, Pennsylvania:  Donald Penrod, of Boswell, Pennsylvania, is convicted of simple assault and making terroristic threats, as is Ronald Bedics, while Michael Abraham is convicted of simple assault and a fourth person, Adam Moyer, acquitted of all counts.  The four individuals were Klansmen attending a White Pride Day picnic on July 25, 1998, when they spotted a state trooper in a tree watching the rally and pointed a gun at him, threatening to kill him.

May 28, 1999, Missouri:  Common law court movement Clifford Keith Hobbs of Auxvasse, Missouri, is sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to interfering with a judicial officer by filing a bogus lien against a judge.  He had earlier received the same sentence as the result of an earlier trial, but the Missouri Court of Appeals granted Hobbs, and other defendants, a retrial.  Hobbs will not serve any of the sentence because he has been in jail long enough to gain parole.

 

JUNE

June 1, 1999, Ohio:  Edgar Bradley and his two sons, Edgar Bradley II and Roy C. Bradley, receive prison sentences for conspiring to frustrate federal tax collectors and failing to file tax returns.  The elder Bradley receives a five year prison sentence and a fine of $150,000, while Edgar II receives 57 months in prison and a fine of $145,000.  Roy receives 46 months in prison and a fine of $118,500.  They must also pay $635,925 in unpaid taxes.  The three tax protesters acted as their own attorneys and declared that the income tax was unconstitutional and the court illegitimate.  The trial took a month to conduct, but jurors convicted them in ninety minutes.

June 3, 1999, Oklahoma:  White supremacist Michael Lee Wiggins is arrested for selling a handgun to another felon cooperating with police.  Wiggins was buying and selling to many weapons that he had a second gun vault in another house to store all of them.

June 3, 1999, Ohio:  Tax protesters Daniel K. and Donna G. Stewart are sentenced to eighteen months in prison for tax conspiracy and evasion, as well as fines of over $40,000 each.  A third defendant, Joe Sabino, who helped the Stewarts evade taxes with a bogus trust, was given five years’ probation.  The Stewarts were members of the Pilot Connection Society, at that time (the early 1990s), the largest tax protest organization in the country.

June 8, 1999, California:  Eric Lance Dillard, a member of the white supremacist Nazi Low Riders gang, is sentenced to three years in prison for his role in attacks on black men in the Antelope Valley in 1996.  A second defendant had earlier received a 57-month sentence.

June 9, 1999, Florida:  Jonathan Strawder is sentenced to five years in prison for his role, as head of the Orlando-area Sovereign Ministries International, in a $12.6 million illegal investment scam.  However, the sentence may be reduced in the future because Strawder has been cooperating with federal authorities, including in their investigation of Tampa-based Greater Ministries International, which Sovereign Ministries copied (Strawder’s father and uncle are members).  Strawder will later get an identical sentence from state charges and will serve the two sentences concurrently.

June 9, 1999, Ohio, Bangkok (Thailand):  Police in Bangkok, Thailand, arrest Robert Alan Smith, a white supremacist wanted for a murder of an African-American in Cleveland, Ohio.  Also known as Matthew Stedman, Smith reportedly shot his victim, then burnt him in a metal barrel.  He will be extradited to the United States.

June 9, 1999, North Dakota:  Lynda Kukla, a tax protester and associate of the Montana Freemen, is sentenced to a year of probation on a tax evasion charge.  Her husband (see above) had previously pled guilty.

June 10, 1999, Michigan:  Randy Graham is sentenced to 55 years in federal prison for his role in plots to kill government officials and commit terrorist acts.  Graham, a member of the western Michigan North American Militia, receives the longest sentence of all four militia members arrested.

June 10, 1999, Alabama:  A plumber from Foley, Alabama, is arrested following his purchase of grenades from an undercover ATF agent.  Chris Scott Gilliam, charged with possessing an unregistered firearm, told the agent he wanted to send mail bombs to Washington, D.C.  Gilliam is a member of the neo-Nazi group The National Alliance.

June 11, 1999, Missouri:  Nine common law court activists in Missouri are convicted of tampering with a judicial official.  Jury members recommend four-year sentences for eight defendants, and a seven-year sentence for leader Dennis Logan (sentencing will not be until August 6).  The defendants had previously been convicted in 1997, but an appeals court overturned the decision.  In the interim, many defendants had pled guilty.

June 11, 1999, Pennsylvania:  Klan member Ronald Bedics is sentenced to 14 to 30 months in state prison for pointing a gun at a state trooper during a Ku Klux Klan picnic in Somerset County.

June 12, 1999, Alabama:  Five Ku Klux Klan members are arrested in Fort Payne, Alabama on firearms charges following a Klan rally at the De Kalb County Courthouse.  Eighty-five demonstrators show up for the annual rally, then prepare to leave.  A police officer, however, spots a pistol in one of the vehicles (three are eventually found).   None of the five occupants of the vehicle claim any of the weapons, so police arrest all five.

June 14, 1999, Texas:  State officials seize a dry cleaning business owned by Republic of Texas member John E. Parsons for nonpayment of almost $127,000 of back taxes.  Parsons claims that the government of Texas is illegitimate and he does not have to pay federal or state taxes.

June 14, 1999, Wisconsin:  Arrest warrants are issued for Wilfred Benzing, his wife, and two of his children, after their failure to appear in court on several charges (see above), including an alleged attack on a deputy sheriff.  Instead of the Benzings appearing in court, an “ex-friend” of the family appeared and attempted to issue sovereign citizen inspired “jurisdictional challenges” to the court.

June 14, 1999, California:  Nicholas Victor Fleming, Jr., receives a fifteen-month sentence for having tried to intimidate a U.S. district judge by placing a $10 million bogus lien on the judge’s property.

June 15, 1999, Kansas:  Jesse Maley of Sylvia, Kansas, receives a six-month house arrest and three years of probation for his role, along with three other men, in defacing a synagogue in Wichita with anti-Semitic statements in 1998.  Maley, who pled guilty to conspiracy to oppress, threaten and intimidate Jewish citizens, faced a sentence of up to ten years in prison.  Maley had been a member of the Salt City Skinheads.

June 16, 1999, Florida:  Greater Ministries International leader Patrick Henry Talbert receives a sentence of ten years in prison on state racketeering, conspiracy and securities fraud charges relating to bilking investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars using his “DTA Trust” in 1994.  Talbert and six other Greater Ministries officials still face a federal trial in August on conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering charges, as Greater Ministries itself allegedly operated a giant pyramid scheme.  A second defendant received a suspended sentence.

June 16, 1999, Arizona:  Joseph Downen is found guilty of conspiracy against a person’s housing rights for an incident in 1998 when Downen and three other men beat a Mexican-American man with a baseball bat in order to get him to move out of their neighborhood.  He faces up to ten years in prison.

June 18, 1999, California:  Three Sacramento-area synagogues are nearly simultaneously set on fire, causing moderate damage.  A leaflet left behind blames the “International Jewsmedia” for the conflict in Kosovo.  Police do not know the individuals responsible for the crimes.

June 21, 1999, Pennsylvania:  Horace E. Groff pleads guilty to fraud in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for trying to send bogus Montana Freemen checks to the Internal Revenue Service.  Groff sent the IRS a Freeman check for $4.4 million, asking for a $1.8 million refund after his $2.6 million tax bill was paid. 

June 24, 1999, Alabama:  Steven Eric Mullins, attempting to save himself from the electric chair, pleads guilty to capital murder for his slaying of a gay man in early 1999.  Mullins and a second defendant, Charles M. Butler, abducted victim Billy Jack Gaither of Sylacauga, Alabama, beat him to death with an ax handle, then burned Gaither’s body on a pile of old tires.  Despite the plea, a sentence of death is still possible.

June 24, 1999, South Carolina:  Two former Ku Klux Klan members, John England and Clayton Spires, Jr., are sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for state charges related to their shooting of three black teenagers outside a nightclub in 1996.  However, the two white supremacists, already serving 25-year federal sentences for the incident, will serve the state sentences concurrently.

June 29, 1999, Ohio:  An anti-gay protester, Charles Spingola, is arrested and charged with riot, disorderly conduct and two counts of criminal damaging during a gay pride parade in Columbus, Ohio.  A second man, Donald L. Richardson, is charged with misconduct at an emergency and disorderly conduct after interfering with the arrest of Spingola.  Spingola had cut down a rainbow flag raised (with permission) on the Statehouse grounds, then another protester burned it.  Many of the protesters were members of the High Street Baptist Church in Worthington, Ohio, an organization associated with the extreme right.  Charles Mainous, the pastor, threatened to burn any future flags as well.

June 29, 1999, Illinois:  William G. Gustafson, of Palatine, Illinois, is charged with resisting a police officer, disorderly conduct, criminal damage to property and assault following an incident in which he damaged a Hispanic neighbor’s fence and threatened to kill her (he has already been charged with a hate crime for the June 14 incident).  The self-proclaimed white supremacist swung part of the fence at police officers who arrived at the scene.  Officers had to use pepper spray to subdue him.  Gustafson, already on probation for aggravated assault, has been under medication and so consequently is ordered taken to a hospital to determine if he was sane at the time of the offense and mentally fit to stand trial.

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