Thursday, June 29, 2006

Shaun Walker Offered Release On Conditional Personal Recognizance

During his bail hearing today, Shaun Walker, previously identified as the Chairman of the National Alliance, was offered release on personal recognizance by U.S. Magistrate David Nuffer pending his trial on Federal hate crime charges upon acceptance of several conditions, or restrictions. Click here for the full story from the Salt Lake Tribune. Updated photo link posted on January 3rd, 2007 courtesy of ABC News.

Judge Nuffer's release order would require that Walker surrender his passport, find a residence in Utah, and have no contact with his two co-defendants, victims or witnesses in this case, or with any other members of the National Alliance or with other groups that have "racial or national sensitivities" as their basis. Walker will remain in the Salt Lake County Jail at least until July 5th, the date Nuffer set for another hearing to get confirmation that the living arrangements have been made. The 38-year-old Walker was transferred over the weekend to Utah from West Virginia, where the National Alliance is based.

His attorney, Robin Ljungberg, said Walker resigned his position as national chairman of the group after his arrest on June 8th.

Walker and two Salt Lake City members of the organization - Travis D. Massey, 29, who has served as a spokesman in Utah for the group, and Eric G. Egbert - were indicted June 7th on charges of conspiracy to interfere with civil rights and interference with a federally protected activity. A federal grand jury alleges that the three conspired to provoke fights with persons perceived to be "nonwhite" to make them afraid to work, live or appear in public in Salt Lake City.

The indictment says the men assaulted a Mexican-American employee of O'Shucks, a downtown Salt Lake City bar, on Dec. 31, 2002. And on March 15, 2003, Massey assaulted an American Indian man at Port O' Call, another Salt Lake City bar, according to the indictment. Both victims allegedly were targeted because of their ethnic heritage. Each charge carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Neither the two victims chose to press charges, nor did the State of Utah file charges during the 3 1/2 year interregnum. The three defendants have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial on August 21st. Massey and Egbert were released earlier this month under conditions similar to the ones that Nuffer is imposing on Walker.

At Wednesday's hearing, prosecutor Carlos Esqueda argued that Walker is a flight risk and asked the magistrate to keep him behind bars. He said the National Alliance, while professing to be a political organization, is really a hate group with "cells" in the United States and Europe."This is a dangerous group," Esqueda said. "There is this deeper, darker side to the National Alliance." He added that in the past few years, Walker has traveled to European countries, including England and Germany, to given talks to National Alliance members. Ljungberg countered that membership itself in the National Alliance is not a crime. "He's spoken at a number of places, including here in Utah to the Legislature," the defense attorney said. He did not give details of his client's appearance before Utah lawmakers, except that it was before 2003, when Walker was living in Utah.

Analysis: The big shocker is the revelation by the defense lawyer that Shaun Walker actually resigned as chairman on June 8th. This is the first I've heard of this. The National Alliance website still identifies Walker as the chairman.

The Tribune reporter also erroneously reported Eric Egbert as a member of the National Alliance. He is a former member, which is why the NA is not offering him the same legal help they've offered Walker and Massey.

The prosecutor deliberately portrays the National Alliance in the blackest possible terms. To characterize Shaun Walker as a flight risk because he traveled to Europe to give speeches to NA members is disngenuous; this was part of his job as chairman. The fact that all 3 have been released on personal recognizance implies the judges believe there's more smoke than fire in the case. Clearly, if there was a problem, the State of Utah would have pressed assault charges much earlier. I also remind readers there's an "officially" unidentified informer involved who was facing charges on an unrelated matter. His testimony has to be considered suspect.

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