U.S. Charges 'Hate Group' Leader in Death Threats

Reuters Business - January 16, 2000

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal authorities Sunday said they have charged Ryan Wilson and his Philadelphia-based "hate group," ALPHA HQ, with violating the Fair Housing Act for making death threats against a civil rights advocate.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced the charges against Wilson during a speech in Atlanta, saying his department was stepping up efforts to help people fight back against housing discrimination.

Cuomo said "Ryan Wilson of Philadelphia and the hate group he runs -- ALPHA HQ -- have been charged by HUD with violating the Fair Housing Act" by threatening fair housing advocate Bonnie Jouhari on his Internet Web site and in a television interview in 1998.

If an administrative law judge rules against Wilson, he could face civil penalties of at least $22,000, plus monetary compensation to Jouhari, including damages, humiliation, mental distress and lot of housing rights.

If either side chooses to take the case to federal court, punitive damages could also be awarded.

Jouhari worked at the Reading-Berks Human Relations Council in Reading, Penn. at the time, helping housing discrimination victims file complaints with HUD, and also chaired the Hate Crimes Task Force for Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Attacked On Web Site

Cuomo said Wilson's Web site carried Jouhari's picture, labeled her a "race traitor," and said, "Traitors like this should beware, for in our day, they will be hung from the neck from the nearest tree or lamp post."

The site also carried an animated picture of Jouhari's office being blown up by explosives, according to a statement by HUD. The site is no longer on the Internet.

Cuomo kicked off the new public awareness campaign during a speech marking Monday's federal holiday commemorating the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

"Tragically, this case shows that the racism and the terrible discrimination that Dr. King fought so hard to abolish remain alive and well and have even moved into cyberspace," Cuomo said in a statement.

"Our fight against these evils continues today, whether along our back roads, main streets, or the information superhighway of the Internet."

HUD said Wilson also allegedly stated on his Web site that Jouhari had a "mongrel" daughter, a reference to the fact that while Jouhari is white, the father of her 16-year-old daughter is black.

No Defense Provided

HUD said Wilson had not provided any defense to the department and had not responded to attempts to interview him about the allegations.

He has admitted to the FBI that he put the images of Jouhari on his Web site and wrote the captions, according to HUD.

The Fair Housing Act, passed by Congress just six days after the assassination of Rev. King, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, family status and national origin.

As part of its campaign to raise awareness about the law, HUD said it would distribute thousands of booklets around the country, and deliver public service announcements to radio and TV stations about the Fair Housing Act.

People who believe they've been harmed by housing discrimination can call 1-800-669-9777 or contact the agency at www.hud.gov/hdiscrim.html.

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