Former skinhead testifies of plan for racial holy war

Deseret Morning News, Utah/April 20, 2007
By Geoffrey Fattah

A former member of the National Alliance, a white-supremacist group, told a jury Thursday that he and other members in Utah talked about waging a "race war" and planned the beatings of several non-whites in the Salt Lake area to spread a message of fear and to recruit others to share their views.

Keith Wayne Cotter said National Alliance members would gather and talk about "Ra-Ho-Wa" or "Racial Holy War." While the group likes to keep a "clean-cut" and "suit-and-tie" public image, Cotter said members would talk about doing violence to "non-whites."

"RaHoWa is the ultimate goal, the holy grail of the white power movement, to throw non-whites out of the country and overthrow the government," Cotter said.

The 26-year-old former skinhead, who claims he has grown to reject his former beliefs while in prison, testified in the third day of a trial against Shaun Walker, Travis Massey and Eric Egbert, who are charged with hate crimes and civil rights violations stemming from the beating of a man of Hispanic heritage outside a bar in 2002 and the beating of a Native American man in 2003.

Cotter recounted how he and the three other men handed out racist literature on New Year's Eve in downtown Salt Lake City. The group wound up at the O'Shucks bar where they began a racially charged shouting match with other patrons and bar staff.

Cotter, who is in federal custody awaiting sentencing in a March 2005 beating of a black man, recounted how Walker told him to lure the bar's manager outside to beat him because he had dark skin. Cotter said as manager James Ballesteros was ushering the group out, Cotter grabbed Ballesteros in a head lock and dragged him outside. While one man held the bar door shut to keep others from helping him, Cotter said three others beat Ballesteros as they called him racist names.

Ballesteros has testified he was beaten black and blue but suffered no serious injury. Cotter said he and the other men beat Ballesteros to send a message that "non-whites" were not welcome in Salt Lake City.

A second former National Alliance member, Brad Callahan, testified being told about the O'Shucks assault later that night at Walker's home by the group. Callahan said Cotter, Walker, Massey and Egbert all bragged about getting "shots" in on a bartender they beat up.

A similar plot was hatched in March 2003 near the Port O'Call bar, where Cotter and Massey decided to beat a Native American man. Cotter said it was just after closing when he and Massey were with two nurses from Provo at a nearby cafe. While in the rest room, Cotter said Massey mentioned he had a particular hatred for Native Americans and wanted to beat up the man. The two lured the man and his friends outside.

Witness Valerie Hoge testified she was getting into her car across the street when she saw the assault. Hoge said she saw two white men beat a dark-skinned man and left him bleeding and unconscious in the street.

After the assault, Cotter said, the two Provo nurses offered them a ride away from the scene.

Defense attorneys for the trio questioned Cotter's motives, pointing out that although Cotter took part in the New Year's Eve assault, he was never charged

Cotter said he struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors. In exchange for his testimony in three hate-crime cases, including the two at trial, he would not be charged in the two assaults. Cotter has already pleaded guilty for the March 2005 beating of a black man targeted because of his race. The victim, who was riding his bicycle to his night job, was hospitalized after being beaten and struck with a beer bottle.

Prosecutors have also agreed to recommend a lesser sentence for Cotter as well as place him in a secure facility for his safety. Cotter said he is already considered a "race traitor" and has been attacked in prison at least once.

Defense attorneys questioned Cotter's "miraculous" conversion away from the white power movement, pointing out the timing seems to coincide with his arrest for the 2005 beating.

Cotter insisted he has abandoned his views and has asked the FBI for help in removing some racist tattoos, including a swastika on his chest.

The trial is expected to continue today.

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