Testimony Concluded In Extremist’s Racketeering Trial
FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) _ A former member of a white-supremacist group testified Tuesday that he helped set a fire at a Jewish community center, and that the group’s leader was pleased by the action.
Michael Morris, 29, appeared for the prosecution in the last day of testimony in James Ellison’s federal racketeering trial. Closing arguments and jury instructions are scheduled Wednesday, the trial’s third day.
Morris said he was a member of the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord when he and another member of the group burned the Jewish Community Center of Bloomington, Ind., on Aug. 15, 1983.
The fire occurred while he and group elder William Thomas accompanied Ellison to a convention of right-wing leaders near Bloomington, Morris said.
Ellison is accused of using his position as leader of the group to burn the Missouri home of his sister for insurance purposes in 1980, to burn a church with a largely homosexual congregation in Springfield, Mo., and the Jewish center, both in 1983, and to bomb a natural gas pipeline over the Red River in Fulton in 1983.
If convicted, Ellison faces up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Morris said Ellison never directly ordered him to burn the center.
Nevertheless, Morris said, Ellison was pleased when he heard that the center was burned but wished that Morris had taken the gold handles from the center’s scripture scrolls because they were valuable.
Ellison surrendered in April after a four-day standoff at the group’s camp in Marion County.
Phil Buford, an agent of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, testified that he found 17 guns that had been converted to fire automatically and several hand grenades, many of them homemade, in the camp’s communication building.
After prosecutor Asa Hutchinson rested his case, Ellison’s attorney Neal Kirkpatrick introduced four witnesses, all current or former members of the group, who said that government witnesses Morris, Thomas and Randall Rader, another former elder of the group, were liars.
″Michael Morris has a reputation for being dishonest and deceitful,″ said Carol Runyon, a resident of the camp. She also said Thomas was unreliable and didn’t tell the truth.
Donna Watts, a former member of the group, said Rader had a reputation for telling the truth. But, she said, Rader had a reason for lying about Ellison now because of the bitterness he felt toward Ellison.
She said Rader, who was in charge of military training at the camp until December 1982, told Ellison he was making a mistake in taking power away from him. Rader wanted the camp to take on a Nazi philosophy and take over the country, but that Ellison did not want the change, she testified.
During cross-examination, she said she believed there was no one at the camp who hated Jews, but could not explain an editorial Hutchinson showed her in the CSA Journal headlined ″Why We Hate the Jews.″
The FBI has said that information from Rader in March provided the basis for their search of the compound after Ellison surrendered. Rader has been named in a Seattle federal grand jury indictment for his alleged activities in The Order, a neo-Nazi group.