Racist Robber's Fans Show True Colors
COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Accused bank robber Peter Langan got a half hour's worth of silent support from three visitors to Federal District Court in Columbus this week, and the mere appearance of the three was enough to cause the U.S. Marshal for Southern Ohio to immediately increased the number of deputies in the courtroom. Ray Redfeairn, head of the Ohio chapter of Aryan Nations, dropped in with two friends to lend moral support to Langan, the alleged co-leader of a gang dubbed the Midwest Bank Bandits by the mainstream press. Langan, on trial here for two of 22 robberies in seven states that netted $250,000, prefers to call his small group the Aryan Republican Army. He seemed buoyed by the brief visit, which was the first overt sign of support from other white supremacists since the trial opened three weeks ago. Redfeairn was joined by two young men wearing Nazi, Aryan Nations, and Confederate insignias. The Aryan Nations trio were in Columbus to get a permit for an anti-Black History Month demonstration planned for February 16 at the Ohio Statehouse, and they stopped by to observe the proceedings because of the publicity. Redfeairn said he doesn't know Langan.The three visitors left the courtroom when prosecutors began reading into the record the transcript of an earlier hearing. The testimony of Harlan Bennett, owner of a Columbus building rented by ARA members for use as a safehouse, was read into the record because Bennett died last November after testifying at a preliminary hearing. Redfeairn termed the reading of the testimony "play acting" and said it should be grounds for a mistrial, adding, "He (Langan) will be found guilty because of his beliefs." Redfeairn, who says he is the only minister of the Christian Identity Church (a.k.a. The Church of Jesus Christ Christian) in Ohio, said that Langan would be welcomed if he sought religious counseling. However, he called Shawn Kenny, a former gang associate who is now one of the main witnesses against Langan, "a Judas." Kenny was southeastern Ohio coordinator of the Aryan Nations in the early 1990s, before Redfeairn's time. In testimony last week, Kenny began to delineate the national network of white supremacists which gave rise to the Aryan Republican Army, linking Langan and the other gang members to Aryan Nations/Christian Identity leader Mark Thomas. Thomas' activities are now under scrutiny by a federal grand jury in Philadelphia. While the testimony at Langan's trial has opened a small window onto the shadowy world of the far-right anti-government "leaderless resistance," this proceeding relates only to two robberies in Ohio, so the scope of the chargesnecessarily limits the political analysis laid out by federal prosecutors. Larger questions, like who masterminded the creation of the gang and where the money wound up, will have to wait. Even in terms of the bank robbery charges, the evidence presented so far is slim. Aside from Shawn Kenny and another ex-gang member who did not participate in the two robberies at issue here, the only eyewitness is Lisa Copley, a teller from Columbus National Bank who saw Langan's face during a robbery for less than a minute. What is most striking about the testimony already presented is the gang's level of professionalism. Two holdup men would take over a bank for no more than 60 seconds, sometimes shouting out how much time they had left, empty the tellers' drawers themselves, and flee in cars purchased using the names of FBI agents. Often the robbers left behind an explosive device to slow down pursuit. The explosive devices turned out to be inoperable, but were realistic enough to tie up the police. Although they allegedly hit 22 banks in seven states over a two year period, the Aryan Republican Army was never caught in the act.The gang's professionalism extended far beyond the actual heists: they used aliases based on forged documents to rent houses, buy cars, and acquire weapons. According to one federal agent working the case, Langan's accomplice Richard Guthrie was "a master forger." Using innocuous names like Raymond Marshall, John MacAlister, Donald McClure, George Thompson, or John Connelly, the Aryan Republican Army stayed one step ahead of the FBI and police. The group also used these forgeries to help ingratiate themselves with Aryan Nations leader Mark Thomas. Last week, Shawn Kenny described the gift to Thomas of multiple forged IDs as a good will gesture, adding that shortly afterward,two of Thomas' proteges joined the crime spree. After the arrests of Guthrie and Langan last January, the FBI confiscated blank birth certificates from Minnesota and Texas with embossed seals; a US Marshal's ID using one Langan's aliases; various corporate and government IDs, and a set of official seals from all 50 states, as well as other blank forms and forgery tools. There has not yet been any testimony as to where these blank forms came from, or whether gang members provided false ID to anyone other than Mark Thomas.Both the politics and the nuts and bolts of the gang's operations are expected to be more fully explored when Kevin McCarthy, who participated in six robberies with Langan and the Aryan Republican Army before turning state's evidence, takes the stand next week.