Two prominent neo-Nazis, sent to prison for violent actions committed to intimidate non-whites in Salt Lake City, Utah, will now be released sooner than expected after an appeals court reduced their sentences.
Sean Walker, the former chairman of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (NA), will now serve only the remaining 9 months of his new 37 month sentence, reduced from the original 87 months. Travis Massey, former leader of the NA's Utah chapter, will serve the last two months of a new 30 month term. His original sentence was 57 months.
The men were convicted in April 2007 by a federal jury of conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, and interference with a federally protected activity, in connection with racially-motivated assaults at two Salt Lake City bars in 2002 and 2003.
In April 2009, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado, ruled that one of the factors that determined Walker and Massey's original prison term was supported by insufficient evidence. Specifically, the claim that one of the victims in the beatings suffered "serious bodily injury" was called into question, as the victim was never found, and eyewitness testimony did not support the argument that the victim needed medical treatment.
Oddly, the appeals court also reversed the determination that Walker was a leader within the group, ruling that the original case did not prove that he possessed any more authority than other members. As chairman of the neo-Nazi National Alliance until his arrest in June 2006, Walker advocated an ideology that demonized Jews and other minorities and called for a whites-only homeland.
A third man, Eric G. Egbert, was also convicted in the case; his sentence of 42 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release was not reduced, and he is expected to be released in June 2010.
While it is unclear what Walker and Massey will do upon their release, it is possible that their slashed sentences will mean that the struggling NA, once the most powerful and largest neo-Nazi group in the United States, might regain some momentum. The NA is headquartered on a compound in Mill Point, West Virginia. It collapsed due to defections and infighting following the death in 2002 of its long-time leader, William Pierce. Pierce was the author of The Turner Diaries, a novel whose vision of a violent white revolution in this country inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, as well as others, to commit murders, robberies and other crimes.
Pierce often claimed that his group attracted a "better class" of white supremacist, but the crude racist attacks committed by Walker and his cohorts stripped away the intellectual veneer the National Alliance preferred to project and revealed the violence and demagoguery that was at the core of the group.