Friday, April 20, 2007
Day Four Of The Shaun Walker Trial - Shaun Walker, Travis Massey, And Eric Egbert Convicted On All Counts
A jury of eight men and four women (there was also one female alternate juror) found former National Alliance Chairman Shaun Walker, former Utah State National Alliance Leader Travis Massey, and former National Alliance member Eric Egbert guilty Friday night (April 20th, 2007) on charges related to the racially-targetted 2002 beating of an Hispanic bar manager, and for another racially-targetted beating of an American Indian outside another bar three months later. The specific counts of the indictment were conspiracy to interfere with civil rights and interference with a federally-protected activity. Click HERE to see the full text of the indictment. This post is based upon an original story published April 21st in the Deseret Morning News, as well as a story from the Salt Lake Tribune. This issue is also being discussed on the Vanguard News Network Forum.
Click HERE to view all previous posts on this trial.
During a post-conviction interview, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Esqueda expressed satisfaction with the verdict, explaining that such crimes are meant to spread fear. "This is the type of crime that affects the community," Esqueda told reporters. "I hope this sends the message to the community of Salt Lake that these are our streets, not their streets."
However, family members of Walker, 39; Massey, 30; and Egbert, 22, cried as U.S. marshals placed each of the men in handcuffs to be held in custody pending sentencing in July. All face up to 20 years in federal prison.
After spending only five hours in deliberation, receiving the case at 4 P.M. and delivering their decision at 9 P.M., the jury was unanimous in its decision. "It was not an easy decision," said one female juror who appeared to have been crying as she was being escorted by an officer to her car. A male juror with her also said the decision was very emotional, but right. "I mean it wasn't easy, but it was the right thing to do." Both jurors said they believed the three men were intent on striking fear among Salt Lake City's minorities. The jury apparently chose to overlook the apparent opportunism of the government's star witness, informer Keith Cotter, and were apparently not overly concerned about the length of the time which passed before the victims chose to seek legal redress.
Walker and his two cohorts were charged with hate crimes and civil rights violations stemming from the beating of two men. During the four-day trial, federal prosecutors claimed the trio beat the men as part of an overall campaign to start a "race war," intimidate "non-whites" in the Salt Lake City area, and use the news of the violence to recruit others who shared their views.
Patrons and employees of the O'Shucks bar testified about a racist confrontation with members of the National Alliance group on New Year's Eve, 2002. The witnesses recounted how white supremacists handed 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." They also referred to "non-whites" as "messy," "disruptive," "noisy" and said they "multiply rapidly."
Star prosecution witness Cotter testified that he took part in both assaults along with the other three defendants, and his account of events at O'Shucks was corroborated by other witnesses, who claimed that bar manager James Ballesteros was dragged out of the bar in a headlock. While one of the men held the door shut to keep patrons and employees from rushing to his aid, the others beat and kicked Ballesteros black and blue.
Cotter also testified to taking part in the beating of a American Indian man outside the Port O' Call bar in March 2003 with Massey. He testified that Massey told him he had a particular hatred for American Indians and the two plotted to lure the man and his friends outside the bar. Cotter then testified he and Massey assaulted three men, leaving the American Indian bleeding and unconscious in the middle of the intersection.
Prosecutors say Cotter is also a suspect in the brutal beating of a black man in March 2005, which left the man hospitalized after being punched, kicked and struck with a beer bottle by three men. Cotter had plead guilty to that assault but struck a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to testify in the other two assaults in exchange for not being charged in them.
Defense attorneys for the accused trio relentlessly portrayed Cotter as an opportunist who implicated the trio primarily to escape being charged in the first two assaults, and to obtain a lighter sentence for the third. The defense also characterized the assaults as drunken bar brawls that had nothing to do with race.
A second former National Alliance member also placed the trio at the scene of the O'Shucks assault. Brad Callahan testified to meeting Walker, Massey and Egbert just after the New Year's incident. They met at Walker's Salt Lake City home and Callahan said the three talked about beating a bartender that night. However, this should have been considered "hearsay"; Callahan did not go to the bar, and did not actually see the trio beat up Ballesteros.
Robin Ljungberg, representing Walker, said the incident was "simply just another bar fight." He said the brawl was not planned out of racial hatred but was sparked by someone throwing beer in Cotter's face. "If I were the bartender that night, Keith [Cotter] would have grabbed me by the neck too," said Ljungberg, who is white. "Except, he would have called me different names." Ljungberg said Walker did not take part in the beating of the bartender.
"It's just a bar fight," said Michael Jaenish, representing Massey. "An unfortunate bar fight in which language was used that was unacceptable."
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Curran rebutted the defense's notion that the beating at O'Shucks was a typical bar brawl unmotivated by race. "It's not a bar fight any more than burning a cross in somebody's yard is just arson," Curran said.
Defense attorney Fred Metos, who primarily represented Egbert, said his clients were obviously disappointed in the verdict and were convinced the evidence against them was weak at best. Metos said defense attorneys will now concentrate on dealing with sentencing on July 31, to appeal to the court for the lightest sentence possible. Apparently there are insufficient funds for an appeal of the verdict itself at the moment.
The National Alliance is still seeking contributions from the public for its General Defense Fund. Those interested in contributing can send their money to:
National Alliance General Defense Fund
P.O. Box 90
Hillsboro, WV 24946
Make checks or money orders payable to the "National Alliance General Defense Fund".
Analysis: It is quite possible that the encounters crossed the line between self-defense and assault. However, the length of time since the altercation hinders the credibility of such charges. Those who are physically assaulted without provocation usually seek justice immediately and not wait until a Federal prosecutor, stoked full of stories by an informant, comes knocking on their door three years later.
However, the implications of this conviction are chilling. It's possible that in the future, a white person who defends himself against a physical attack by a non-white could, in extreme circumstances, be charged with a hate crime, using this case as a precedent.
It's sad that a jury of 12 Utahns could swallow this notion of "hate crimes". Utah was founded and settled by those who were themselves victims of repeated "hate" crimes in Missouri and Illinois. The Mormons fled to Utah to escape hatred, and even afterwards were harried by the Federal government to the point of disincorporation until they indefinitely suspended their "peculiar institution", plural marriage. How Utahns have apparently forgotten their past - now they've climbed into bed with their former oppressors.
Perhpas now people involved in the Cause have acquired a better understanding of why American National Socialist Workers Party (ANSWP) Commander Bill White, to name one white nationalist leader, takes such umbrage at people in the Cause who spend their time drinking, fighting, and wenching. They not only create and exacerbate negative stereotypes about white nationalists, but can actually find themselves arrested, convicted, and imprisoned. Because of the controversial nature of the white nationalist philosophy, those who embrace and represent it must accept the burden of meeting a higher standard of personal conduct. And White practices what he preaches - when he learned that former Ohio State ANSWP Leader Justin Boyer had an outstanding domestic violence warrant (which Boyer may not even have known about), he immediately removed him from his leadership position and replaced him, even though this action may have helped temporarily derail a proposed ANSWP rally in the Over-the-Rhine section of Cincinnati that was originally scheduled to take place on April 20th. Yet White receives withering criticism from many within the movement for his attitude. Even I don't always agree with White - I think he's mistaken in refusing to participate actively in the proposed Vanguard News Network Memorialization Rally for Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom to be held in Knoxville, TN, on May 26th. But this reluctance to cooperate with VNN in this one area does NOT cancel out the benefits he brings to the Cause in other areas.
Shaun Walker was an innovative, dynamic leader who functioned well as a state leader for the National Alliance, and put out some pertinent ADV broadcasts as national chairman, but he was a passionate man who liked to party a bit too hearty, and it cost him his chairmanship, his membership, and now his liberty. We can all learn from this experience. I doubt any of them will be sentenced to the full 20 years - a five year stretch for him and Massey and three years for Egbert would seem more likely.