The national chairman of a fading white-supremacist group pleaded not guilty Monday to federal hate-crime charges in Salt Lake City.
Shaun A. Walker, chairman of the National Alliance, had been transferred from West Virginia over the weekend and appeared before Magistrate David Nuffer in U.S. District Court. Walker was ordered held pending a hearing Wednesday, at which prosecutor Carlos Esqueda said he will argue that Walker be detained until his trial.
Walker and two Salt Lake City members of the organization - Travis D. Massey, 29, who has served as a spokesman in Utah for the group, and Eric G. Egbert, 21 - were indicted June 7 on charges of conspiracy to interfere with civil rights and interference with a federally protected activity. Each charge carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine..
A federal grand jury alleges that the three conspired to provoke fights with persons perceived to be "nonwhite" to make them afraid to work, live or appear in public in the Salt Lake City area.
The indictment says that the men intimidated and threatened individuals of minority background on Dec. 31, 2002, at O'Shucks, a downtown Salt Lake City bar, and then allegedly assaulted a Mexican-American man. The alleged victim had been "enjoying employment" there, which is a federally protected activity.
And on March 15, 2003, Massey and an unnamed individual threatened and assaulted an American Indian man at the Port O' Call bar in Salt Lake City, the indictment alleges.
Both victims allegedly were targeted because of their ethnic heritage.
Massey and Egbert pleaded not guilty at court appearances earlier this month and were released pending an Aug. 21 trial for all three defendants.
The Hillsboro, W.Va.-based National Alliance sparked controversy in Utah when it bought space on a billboard in 2004 on State Street in Salt Lake City and posted the message "Securing the future for European Americans." The group complains of "out-of-control" immigration by nonwhites, an alleged Jewish monopoly of the mass media and political correctness in education.
The organization was founded in 1974 by William Pierce, whose novel The Turner Diaries inspired acts of domestic terror, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, prosecutors say.
At one point, the alliance had 1,400 members, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama group that tracks hate crimes. However, the membership dwindled to fewer than 200 after Pierce's death in 2002, the group says.