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Dallas Morning News
March 2, 1990 (1A)

5 skinheads convicted of conspiracy

By Tracy Everbach
Staff Writer of the Dallas Morning News

A federal jury convicted five white supremacist skinheads of
conspiring to violate the civil rights of Jews,
African-Americans and Hispanics in Dallas.

The five -- members of a neo-Nazi group called the Confederate
Hammerskins -- were accused of vandalizing Jewish institutions
and assaulting minorities in a park.

The conviction "should send a warning across the nation that
young racists cannot commit crimes of hate," said Barry
Kowalski, a prosecutor with the U.S. Justice Department's
civil rights division. "They can believe what they want and
say what they want, but they better not vandalize or commit
acts of violence."

One of the convicted skinheads gave a Nazi salute as he was
escorted from the courthouse Thursday.

After deliberating four hours, the six-man, six-woman,
all-white jury convicted Sean Christian Tarrant, 20, of
Dallas; Christopher Barry Greer, 25, of Irving; Jon Lance
Jordan, 19, of Garland; Michael Lewis Lawrence, 22, of Tulsa,
Okla.; and Daniel Avis Wood, 20, of Dallas on conspiracy
charges. The jury also found Mr. Jordan and Mr. Wood guilty of
using a firearm in the vandalism of a synagogue. Jurors
acquitted Mr. Lawrence on the firearms charge.

Defense attorneys had contended that the five young men were
not violent and that the Justice Department targeted them
because of their philosophies. The Hammerskins espouse Nazi
beliefs and crop their hair to show unity.

"It is very unpopular, the things they believe," said Leon
Carter, a Dallas lawyer who defended Mr. Jordan. "But they
have the right to believe it."

Mr. Carter, who is African-American, said he believes his
client is innocent.

"There was a lot of circumstantial evidence," he said. "The
jury didn't hear at one time that my client committed an act
of violence."

The five Hammerskins are to be sentenced April 19 by U.S.
District Judge Barefoot Sanders.

He could imprison Mr. Jordan and Mr. Wood for up to 25 years
and fine them $500,000 each. The judge could sentence Mr.
Tarrant, Mr. Greer, and Mr. Lawrence up to 20 years in prison
and fine them $500,000 each.

None of the five defendants showed emotion when the verdicts
were read. Some members of their families wept.

Mr. Tarrant's father, Robert Tarrant of Memphis, Tenn., said
his son had been unfairly portrayed as the leader of the
Hammerskins.

"He's a good Christian boy," Robert Tarrant said. "He's always
advocated peace, non-violence and love of fellow man. He
believes everyone should be allowed to do what they want."

As the defendants were escorted from the courtroom by U.S.
marshalls, Mr. Wood gave a Nazi salute.

Also in the courtroom when the verdict was announced were
several members of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, a
Dallas skinhead group that opposes racism. Sporting shaved
heads and jackets emblazoned with the American flag and the
Star of David, the group members said they had come to hear
the verdict read.

After the verdict, Mr. Kowalski shook hands with the
non-racist skinheads and told them he was proud of their
stand.

A 15-year-old member of the group said its members do not
believe the white race is superior.

"There is a racial problem going on in Dallas, and the
Confederate Hammerskins and other groups like them are going
around and hurting people because of their race," said the
young woman, who identified herself only as Shirley, a member
of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.

The five convicted skinheads devised and participated in a
plan to chase and beat African-Americans and Hispanics in
Robert E. Lee Park between June and September 1988. They
contended that the park, named for the Confederate general,
was reserved for whites.

The five also vandalized the Jewish Community Center and spray
painted anti-Semitic slogans, shot out windows and cut
air-conditioning lines at Temple Shalom in August and October
1988. Witnesses testified that members of the Hammerskins had
plotted to pump lethal gas into the temple.

Mark Briskman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League
of B'nai B'rith, said the verdict culminated a 2 1/2-year
effort by the league to stop skinhead violence.

"I hope this will send a message across the country that this
kind of organized racism and anti-Semitism will not be treated
in anything less than an aggressive manner," Mr. Briskman
said. "Hatred and bigotry do not belong in this country."

The Confederate Hammerskins are not the only violent, white
supremacist skinhead group in Dallas, Mr. Briskman said.

Tuesday night, Richardson police arrested seven people
identified as members of a neo-Nazi skinhead group called
Confederate White Vikings. The group threatened a black woman
and broke the windshield of her car, police said.

"We need to keep vigil on this issue. It's not going away with
this one verdict," said Peter Johnson, regional director of
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"It's about time we started prosecuting cases like this to end
biased crimes of violence," he said.

During the trial, witnesses described an incident in which
Hammerskins assaulted a white man they believed was
homosexual.

White the Anti-Defamation League and law enforcement agencies
continue to monitor skinhead groups in the Dallas area,
federal investigations continue in other cities, Mr. Briskman
said. Federal prosecutors said the Dallas cases were the first
indictments in a nationwide investigation.

Twelve former members or associates of the Hammerskins who
pleaded guilty to misdemeanor or juvenile federal civil rights
violations, then testified for the prosecution, will be
sentenced by Judge Sanders.

Mr. Tarrant already is serving a two-year state sentence for
violating probation on a 1987 robbery charge. Mr. Wood is
serving a 10-year state sentence for felony criminal mischief
in connection with the temple vandalism. He pleaded guilty in
that case. Mr. Lawrence faces an Oklahoma state charge of
shooting with intent to kill in connection with the wounding
last September of an African-American teen-age girl in Tulsa.

=30=

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