Roanoke neo-Nazi cleared of threat allegation

A law firm asked a judge to sanction William A. White over comments he made on the Internet.

Roanoke Times/July 29, 2008

The biggest weapon that William A. White wields in his white supremacy movement - the Internet - actually makes him less of a threat to those he targets, a federal judge said in a ruling for the Roanoke neo-Nazi activist.

A Richmond law firm had asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Bradford Stillman to recommend sanctions against White after he posted the home address and telephone number of one of its lawyers, along with comments the firm took as threats.

But Stillman declined in an opinion filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, finding that "nowhere in any of the postings by White did he issue any direct, or even indirect, threat of violence or suggestion of physical harm."

In Stillman's analysis, whatever danger White might pose is diluted by the way he airs his "patently racist" and "wholly repugnant" views: by posting them on a Web site devoted to his neo-Nazi organization.

"Seated at his computer, at a safe remove from the actual conflict, he strikes out randomly with inflammatory rhetoric, targeting individuals whom he has never met," Stillman wrote in his 76-page opinion.

"The delivery of these messages using the Internet makes them less threatening by their very nature," Stillman wrote, noting they were directed not at an individual, but to anyone who might come across them in cyberspace.

"Thus, to the extent that White's postings are available for viewing on a variety of publicly-accessible websites, and thus by potentially an endless number of people, that fact makes it less likely that the information posted on the Internet rises to the level of a true threat," the opinion stated.

The motion for sanctions against White stemmed from his involvement in a housing discrimination case on the eastern side of the state. Last year, a Virginia Beach landlord was accused of using racial slurs against his black tenants and subjecting them to restrictions, such as curfews, that he did not apply to white tenants. The case has since been settled.

White inserted himself into the case by sending angry letters to the plaintiffs, whom he addressed as "whiny Section 8 n------," according to court records.

That led lawyers for the plaintiffs to subpoena computer records from White. And that led White to turn his attention to one of the lawyers, Kevin Mottley of the Richmond law firm Troutman Sanders.

In February, White logged on to an Internet forum frequented by white supremacists and directed his "comrades" not to harass Mottley or his wife in the following ways: by calling them at a home number he listed in the posting, by going to a home address he also publicized or by sending them "hate fliers" or nooses in the mail.

At a hearing in April, Mottley testified that he took White's actions to be a threat, or at least encouragement for others to do what he told them not to do. Mottley said after receiving two anonymous, late-night calls, he hired security guards to watch his home.

White, commander of the Roanoke-based American National Socialist Workers Party, testified that some postings on his Web site, which have called for the killing of blacks and human rights activists, are satire.

"White limits his conduct to those acts that are within the bounds of the law," his lawyer argued in court papers, "and to the prescriptions that he believes are legal, legitimate uses of his right to speak under the First Amendment."

White still faces the possibility of sanctions closer to home.

Earlier this month, a magistrate judge in Roanoke ordered White to appear before a federal judge to explain two things: why he deleted computer files that were subject to a subpoena in the housing case, and why he later sent an e-mail laced with obscenities to lawyers involved in the case.

A hearing date in that case has not been scheduled.

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