Jurors acquitted 13 white supremacists Thursday of charges including conspiring to overthrow the federal government and to kill a federal judge and FBI agent.
The all-white jury returned the verdict in its fourth day of deliberations, a day after U.S. District Judge Morris Arnold refused to accept the panel’s statement that it was deadlocked on two of the counts.
The defendants included three leaders of white supremacist groups: Louis Ray Beam Jr., 41, of Houston; Robert E. Miles, 63, of Cohoctah, Mich., and Richard G. Butler, 70, of Hayden Lake, Ida.
Asked how the seven-week trial affected the white supremacist movement, Miles said: “Who knows? What movement? What’s left of it after this?”
Accepts the Verdict
U.S. Atty. J. Michael Fitzhugh said he thought the government had proved its case but “we accept the verdict of the jury.”
Nine of the 13 defendants were charged with seditious conspiracy, accused of wanting to overthrow the government and start an all-white nation in the Pacific Northwest. Five were accused of conspiring to kill the federal officials, and two also were charged with transporting stolen money across state lines.
Six of the defendants are already serving prison terms for other crimes.
The jury reached a verdict Wednesday on the charge involving the judge and FBI agent, but Arnold ordered it sealed until deliberations were complete.
The government said supremacist groups robbed banks and armored trucks of $4.1 million, including about $1 million that still is missing.
The defense contended the conspiracy theory was made up by a key government witness, James Ellison, 47, who led a supremacist group in Arkansas and now is serving 20 years for racketeering.
Ku Klux Klan Chaplain
“The government was going to send a message to the movement. The movement sent a message to the government. The message was the same one God told pharaoh, ‘Let my people go,’ ” said Thom Robb, the national chaplain of the Ku Klux Klan, who hugged several of the defendants after the verdict was announced.
Fitzhugh said it was not a political trial. “We weren’t after them for what they believed or what they said, but what they did,” he said.
Maximum penalties for conviction would have included 20 years and a $20,000 fine for seditious conspiracy, life for conspiracy to murder, and 10 years and a $10,000 fine for transporting stolen money.
The targets of the alleged murder conspiracy were U.S. District Judge H. Franklin Waters and FBI agent Jack Knox in Fayetteville, Ark. Prosecutors said the defendants got no further in the murder plot than to begin driving to Fayetteville before turning back because of snow.