Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day Three Of The Shaun Walker Trial - Informer Keith Cotter Testifies

Special Note: Post updated April 20th at 1:00 A.M. to include information from brand new Deseret News report.

On day three of the trial of former National Alliance Chairman Shaun Walker (pictured at left, courtesy of ABC News) and his cohorts, Travis Massey and Eric Egbert, the "star" of the show was the turncoat who basically sold these three to the Feds in exchange for leniency. Original story from KSL Channel 5. A more detailed story published April 20th by the Deseret Morning News.

Informer Keith Cotter, currently jailed for another attack, and who turned state's evidence in exchange for future leniency, 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.

Cotter recalled 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 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.

Another witness corroborated Cotter's account. 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.

Cotter also disclosed a similar plot, hatched in March 2003 near the Port O'Call bar, where Cotter and Massey decided to beat a American Indian 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.

A third 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.

Cotter summed up both incidents as "targets of opportunity", part of a "mission" to "try to beat non-whites in semi-public places" as a National Alliance recruiting tool aimed at "instilling fear in the non-white community."

But defense attorneys repeatedly challenged his telling of events, his role and a cooperation agreement he's entered with the prosecution. They also questioned the timing of his "conversion", pointing out that it coincided with his arrest for the March 2005 beating. Specifically, the attorney for Eric Egbert, Fred Metos, said "We're certainly questioning his credibility. There's absolutely no doubt about…just whether he's telling the truth in the proceedings. And again, I'm hesitant to get into that because I don't want the judge to throw me in jail for talking to you guys."

Cotter pled guilty for the March 2005 beating of a black man targetted because of his race. In exchange for this plea, and for his testimony in three additional hate crime cases, including the two at trial, he would not be charged in the two assaults. Cotter's 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.

There are still three witnesses left before each side provides closing arguments. It will be interesting to find out who the three remaining witnesses are. Will Walker, Massey and Egbert take the stand?

The judge indicated he thinks the case will go to the 12 member jury as early as Friday.

Prognosis: After viewing each KSL story about this trial, you've probably noticed the Comments feature. In reviewing KSL viewer comments on this story, I've found that at least two-thirds of the commenters believe the three are guilty of assault and should do some time. However, very few commenters believe there should be a "hate crime enhancer".

If these commenters are representative of the pool from which the jury was drawn, then this indicates the possibility that Walker and Massey could be convicted of assault, but mot convicted of a hate crime. Egbert might get off altogether, perhaps being viewed as someone who was "just along for the ride". The fact that Egbert is no longer a National Alliance member might help him with the jury.

However, the defense's contention that Keith Cotter was the real heavy seems to be validated. Not only was Cotter involved in both dustups, but, by his own admission, he "smashed" the Indian's skull. Smashing someone's skull seems to go beyond a mere "schoolyard" fight. If anyone in this deal belongs in jail, it is Keith Cotter.

To avoid a conviction, the defense, during its summation, must not only continue to turn Cotter's credibility inside out, but must also question, as diplomatically as possible, why the victims waited over three years to make an issue of this. If I was on the receiving end of a "boot party", I don't think I'd wait for over three years to seek justice; I'd be down to the local police station straightaway. The fact that the victims waited so long to seek justice must cause their credibility and commitment to be questioned.

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