Neo-Nazi figure White now target of civil suit

William A. White is being sued by a group of black tenants who claim they were harassed.

The Roanoke Times/August 28, 2010

Neo-Nazi leader William A. White, already serving prison time for making racially motivated threats, now faces the possibility of financial punishment.

In a civil trial that began Wednesday, a group of black tenants from a Virginia Beach apartment complex is claiming that White harassed them in May 2007 after learning of a discrimination lawsuit they had filed against their white landlord.

Identifying himself as the commander of the Roanoke-based American National Socialist Workers Party, White sent the five women letters adorned with swastikas and addressed to "Whiney Section 8 N-----."

Following a rant about blacks on welfare, White concluded: "You may get one over on your landlord this time, and you may not. But know that the white community has noticed you, and we know that you are and never will be anything more than a dirty parasite -- and that our patience with you and the government that coddles you runs thin."

The women remain so frightened of White that on the night before the trial began, two of them were harboring reservations about going forward with the case, their attorney, Tony Troy, told the jury.

When the trial resumes today in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, the women are expected to describe their reactions to the letters from White, who for years used the Internet and other means to harangue those who don't share his racist views.

As White sat scribbling notes at the defendant's table, the jury listened to a recording of an Internet radio show in which he giddily recounted the scare he caused among residents of the 15½ Street Apartments in Virginia Beach.

"I bring this up not to brag about how I managed to flip out some Negroes," he told his listeners. Rather, he said, the point was how to employ the old Southern maxim of "showing the spooks some haints."

White explained that during the civil rights movement, blacks were terrorized by members of the Ku Klux Klan and their billowing robes. "The dumb n----- would believe that they were ghosts of Confederate soldiers" -- or haints, White said.

"It's the old trick of spooking the spooks," White said of the tactics he used.

Two of the women suing White have already testified against him in an earlier criminal trial. The 33-year-old was convicted in December of threatening them and two other people in unrelated cases and was later sentenced to two and a half years in prison. White was transported from the federal prison in Beckley. W.Va., to attend the trial.

The plaintiffs - Annette Reddick, Tasha Reddick, Arlene Carter, Tiese Mitchell and Crystal Lewis - have not asked for a specific amount. Their lawsuit seeks both compensatory damages for them and their children and punitive damages against White.

In the past, White has claimed that his bigoted statements should be protected by the First Amendment. But Judge James Turk ruled earlier that the neo-Nazi cannot raise a free-speech defense in the civil trial.

That left White's attorney, John Weber, to argue during his opening statements that the plaintiffs have not met the legal burden of showing they are entitled to damages. Among other things, Weber said the women chose to remain at the apartment complex in spite of their fears, and that some of their eight children were too young to comprehend the situation and therefore should not be compensated.

Weber also pointed out that the women have already received settlements of between $20,000 and $30,000 from the lawsuit that first attracted White's attention. In that case, landlord John Crockett Henry was accused of making racial slurs and imposing a 10 p.m. curfew that applied only to his black tenants.

The trial, scheduled to last three days, will resume today at 9 a.m.

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