Thursday, October 30, 2003

The other Nichols

One of the more bizarre claims being made by James Nichols (brother of Terry Nichols) in his federal lawsuit against Michael Moore is the contention that "Moore libeled him by linking him to the terrorist act" [the Oklahoma City bombing].

Just for the record, from the criminal complaint against Timothy McVeigh:
9. A check of Michigan Department of Motor Vehicle records shows a license in the name of Timothy J. McVeigh, date of birth April 23, 1968, with an address of 3616 North Nan Dyke Road, Decker, Michigan. This Michigan license was renewed by McVeigh on April 8, 1995. McVeigh had a prior license issued in the state of Kansas on March 21, 1990, and surrendered to Michigan in November 1993, with the following address: P.O. Box 2153, Fort Riley, Kansas.

10. Further investigation shows that the property at 3616 North Van Dyke Road, Decker, Michigan, is associated with James Douglas Nichols and his brother Terry Lynn Nichols. The property is a working farm. Terry Nichols formerly resided in Marion, Kansas, which is approximately one hour from Junction City.

11. A relative of James Nichols reports to the FBI that Tim McVeigh is a friend and associate of James Nichols, who has worked and resided at the farm on North Van Dyke Road in Decker, worked and resided at the farm on North Van Dyke Road in Decker, Michigan. This relative further reports that she had heard that James Nichols had been involved in constructing bombs in approximately November 1994, and that he possessed large quantities of fuel oil and fertilizer.

In other words, there is clear reason to connect James Nichols to the Oklahoma City bombing -- since McVeigh listed Nichols' farm as his home address, and McVeigh had in fact lived there. Not only had he lived there, he more than likely was significantly influenced by James Nichols' long-established radical beliefs.

There's a good deal more to it. As Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck reported in American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing:
Federal agents descended on Michigan's Thumb on April 21, scouring the countryside for information that might link James Nichols to the bombing. They conducted a raid on his farm, finding some bags of fertilizer containing ammounium nitrae, a fifty-five gallon drum of fuel oil, and some potential bomb ingredients, including fuse line and blasting caps.

Investigators talked with his associates, neighbors, and critics. One Decker man reported having seen the Nichols brothers experimenting with small bombs, made in plastic soft-drink bottles with fertilizer, bleach, and other chemicals. This witness recalled a man named Tim who lived at the farm for a time, carried a handgun, and often wore camouflage clothing. A second neighbor reported that men working on the Nichols farm had experiment with small bombs ...

James Nichols was arrested, but the FBI wasn't able to construct a sound case against him, and its charges were dropped. It turned out later that an informant had told the FBI that as early as December 1988, James Nichols -- who believed the popular far-right conspiracy theory that the American government was secretly responsible for downing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie earlier that month -- talked about blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City with a "megabomb," and at one point even drew a sketch of a building like the Murrah. However, no one was able to corroborate this account.

Since then, James Nichols has mostly kept a low profile -- he did attend Terry Nichols' trial in Denver, and spoke irregularly to reporters, contending throughout that both were innocent. He has given other interviews since. (Especially noteworthy is this interview with a Fox reporter who mostly threw him softballs, during which Nichols continued to claim that both McVeigh and Terry Nichols were set up by the government.)

Recently he made news again when the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that he had joined ex-Posse Comitatus leader James Wickstrom's Christian Identity cult in Michigan:
Nichols took the oath of Aryan warriorhood in a deceptively modest setting: a ramshackle furniture store in the tiny town of Essexville, Mich., just up the road from his farm.

About 90 white supremacists from different parts of the country had gathered there for the Feast of the Tabernacles, a high holy day on the Christian Identity calendar. The man behind the Feast was James Wickstrom, an Identity pastor who has long been one of America's most outspoken racist leaders.

The two-day event featured violent speeches by some of the most extreme voices of Identity, which teaches that whites are God's true chosen people, while Jews are the "spawn of Satan" who must — along with homosexuals and soulless "muds," or people of color — be done away with.

On Day Two of the Feast, after listening to a series of calls to exterminate the Jews, Nichols walked up to a makeshift altar in the back of the furniture store and dropped cents into a basket — two helpings of the Old Testament "soldier's ransom" of cents, paid to ensure God's protection. Nichols spoke his name out loud, then told the rapt Aryans that he had come on behalf of his brother, too.

Facing a Confederate battle flag pinned to a pegboard wall behind the altar, Nichols bowed his head, raised his arms Pentecostal-style, and pledged himself and Terry to eternal battle.

Ralph Daigle, an elderly ex-convict and Identity pastor, placed his fingertips on Nichols' forehead, anointing him for the struggle ahead.

After asking Yahweh (God) to make the Nichols brothers great warriors in the cause, Daigle addressed the congregation, reminding them Terry Nichols, now serving a life sentence, was unjustly imprisoned by "the Jew."

James Nichols lowered his arms and got a congratulatory handshake from Wickstrom, well-known for his furious, red-faced calls for "a perfect hatred" against the "Jew-nited States."

As Mark Potok put it in an interview for the Flint Journal:
"James Nichols, among many other people, always denied the Patriot movement was racist. This shows clearly the racist and anti-Semitic strain that always ran through the movement."

What's perhaps most surprising is that any lawyer would actually take Nichols' suit. It certainly should not survive the initial summary-dismissal requests.

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