Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Nazi next door

I suppose you could file this under Bobo's World (from the Los Angeles Times):
The parent of a high school football player who invited teammates over to his house for weightlifting sessions allegedly tried to recruit the teens into a heavily armed white-supremacist group, Riverside County authorities announced Tuesday.

The parent, Howard Marshall of Winchester, was one of 19 alleged white supremacists arrested in November on suspicion of gun and drug violations, news that stunned school officials and parents in the rural communities near Hemet and Menifee in the southwest part of the county.

... Doyle said the investigation, joined by the FBI, was triggered by an allegation in September that Marshall, 44, had given steroids to his son and at least one other player at Paloma Valley High School in Menifee during the 2003 season.

When authorities searched the homes of Marshall and his step-brother in Menifee, they recovered 90 automatic and semiautomatic rifles and pistols, thousands of rounds of ammunition, body armor and drugs, they said. They also said they found German Nazi war helmets and boots and Nazi flags.

"Sixty years and one day removed from the discovery of Auschwitz, I'm amazed we're still fighting this garbage in our country," sheriff's spokesman Tom Freeman said.

The alleged supremacists met frequently at members' homes and at rural locations in the southwest part of the county, sheriff's officials said. Some of the suspects also were affiliated with nationwide white-supremacist organizations, including Public Enemy Number One, a growing "white power" group in Southern California and in state prisons, authorities said.

I've written previously about the growing presence of white-supremacist and hate-crime activity in Southern California, especially noteworthy because of its serious infiltration into high schools and among young people generally. This is clearly the most serious manifestation of that trend to date.

Evidently, Marshall's activities opened up a whole window into how white supremacists are insinuating themselves in mainstream society, particularly by disguising their intentions and evading immediate detection by the schools:
Marshall had been doing strength training and nutritional work for the football players at Paloma Valley High, authorities said Tuesday. Doyle said high school students had joined white supremacist groups because of Marshall. He said the investigation shows that most of those being recruited ranged from ages 13 to adult.

Any contact Marshall had with students at Paloma Valley High was not done in an "official capacity," Barry Kayrell, spokesman for the Perris Union High School District, said Tuesday afternoon.

"His son played on the (football) team," Kayrell said and, like many parents, Marshall became involved with the team. "Nine times out of 10, that's not a problem."

Last year, the then-head coach of the team, Craig Lind, recommended Marshall as a volunteer "walk-on coach," Kayrell said.

What happened next is somewhat in dispute. School officials say a background check was conducted on Marshall and his criminal history was uncovered.

"A Department of Justice check was done," Kayrell said, and Marshall's connection with the school was "immediately unplugged" in August.

However, Lt. Scott Madden said the Sheriff's Department informed the school that Marshall was a convicted felon and it was then that the district took the appropriate action. Sheriff's officials say the district did not do a criminal screening of Marshall.

When asked if Marshall should, at any time, have been allowed on campus to work with the football team, Kayrell replied: "Absolutely not."

The case also opened up a window into the levels of white supremacist activitiy in the region, much of it associated with violent gangs that originate in the prison system:
Madden said information obtained during the investigation shows that many of those arrested ---- including the Marshalls ---- were actively recruiting at the school and throughout Southwest County for the cental cause of white supremacist groups. He said the investigation revealed at least three such major groups were involved.

Photographs seized during the search warrants and displayed Tuesday show many teens standing near adults, all apparently giving the straight-arm, "Heil Hitler" Nazi salute to the camera.

In one photo, two young girls flanked a man, all three doing the salute while a Nazi flag is displayed on a stage in the background. Madden said he believes the two girls were under the age of 12.

The groups would have rallies and periodically throw parties where they would espouse their white supremacist beliefs, authorities said.

One of the most recent, Madden said, was thrown in an attempt to raise money for either the bail or defense fund for one of the 19 people arrested.

The 19 arrests in fact appear to have been just the tip of the iceberg. To date, a total of 42 people have been arrested as a result of the investigations:
Investigations in Riverside and San Bernardino counties have led to the arrest of 42 people associated with white-supremacist hate groups in recent months, authorities said.

In southwestern Riverside County, several raids over the past four months have led to 18 arrests for various crimes and uncovered a trove of weapons, drugs, body armor, stolen vehicles, hate literature and Nazi propaganda, according to a Riverside County Sheriff's Department news release.

... In San Bernardino County, sheriff's deputies announced Wednesday that, since beginning a joint investigation with the FBI in November 2003, they had arrested 24 people with ties to white-supremacist groups in the High Desert, according to a news release. The arrests, mostly for alleged narcotics and firearms violations, resulted from an investigation of hate groups in the Morongo Basin.

Of those arrested, Thomas Powell, 23, a Desert Hot Springs resident, was later convicted of federal weapons charges and sentenced to 2½ years in federal prison, deputies reported. Brant Hardesty, a 31-year-old Yucca Valley man described by deputies as a hate-group leader, has been sentenced to two years in federal prison on weapons violations.

If nothing else, the investigations have gotten a good deal of ordnance off the streets:
As a result of the searches, police seized more than 75 firearms, many of which had been modified or reported stolen, Madden wrote.

Others were illegal assault weapons.

Authorities also seized more than 15,000 rounds of ammunition, a half-dozen stolen vehicles, several bulletproof vests, methamphetamine, steroids, hallucinogenic mushrooms, a marijuana-cultivation operation, marijuana packaged for sale, and a large amount of white-supremacy propaganda material, Madden wrote.

A majority of those arrested were convicted felons, Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle reported.

But I'm sure this is just an "isolated incident."

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