Group seeks to halt gift to neo-Nazi

Telegram & Gazette/December 13, 2000

Plymouth -- A land conservation group in Duxbury has gone to court to try to stop a $500,000 inheritance from being paid to a Louisiana church headed by a neo-Nazi.

The Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts filed for the injunction in Plymouth Probate Court. The group seeks to stop the executor of Richard J. Cotter Jr.'s will from paying a bequest to the New Christian Crusade Church of Chalmette, La. The Wildlands Trust is named in Mr. Cotter's will, along with the NCCC and two other charitable organizations.

Together, the four organizations stand to divide more than $2 million. The other two groups are the Cura Visiting Nurses' Association and the Thornton W. Burgess Society, which pays tribute to the famous children's author. However, the injunction request argues that the New Christian Crusade Church does not qualify for the inheritance because it is not a legitimate charitable organization under the Internal Revenue Service code, which is explicitly required by Mr. Cotter's will.

The church is headed by James K. Warner, who, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is a founding member of the American Nazi Party and a close friend of David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

In a recent interview, Mr. Warner called Jews "satanic people." Mr. Cotter, a Duxbury millionaire, also left $25,000 to William Pierce, leader of the National Alliance, a pro-Nazi group, and the author of "The Turner Diaries," the book that hate group experts say inspired Timothy McVeigh's 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. Mr. Cotter also left $100,000 to Ernst Zundel, a Canadian Holocaust denier, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law, Mr. Cotter died in March 1999 at age 81. His fringe political leanings, first reported in a Telegram & Gazette story earlier this month, came as a shock to his friends and family. "I knew nothing about Dick's interests," said Donald O. Smith, his longtime friend and legal colleague and executor of Mr. Cotter's estate.

Mr. Smith has raised questions about Mr. Warner and the New Christian Crusade Church and has withheld the group's inheritance. He said the matter will now be resolved in court. "They're trying to straighten this thing out," Mr. Smith said.

According to the will, Wildlands Trust stands to increase its inheritance should the New Christian Crusade be deemed a for-profit organization. The conservation group is being represented by Hale and Dorr, a Boston law firm.

The executive director of the Wildlands Trust referred questions about the filing to the trust's lawyer, Linda Ricci, who is handling the case. Ms. Ricci declined to comment.

Mr. Cotter's niece, Diana L. Chabrier, of Westfield, N.J., applauded the legal action. "I hope my uncle's money doesn't go to Louisiana," Ms. Chabrier said. "And I'm confident it won't."

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