Charges tossed in supremacist’s trial
A federal judge dismissed two felony charges today against Kevin Strom, the founder of the Aryan-lovin' National Vanguard, charged with enticing a 10-year-old girl to perform sexual acts and witness intimidation and obstruction.
Shortly after the prosecution rested its case around 11:30am on the second day of trial, defense attorney Fred Heblich, shown above having a celebratory lunch with co-counsel Andrea Harris, made a motion to dismiss the charges. "I can't find a single enticement or direct communication between the defendant and the minor child that involved discussion about sex," Heblich pointed out.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Gould contended that Strom's sending lilies and roses anonymously to the girl on her 11th birthday showed his sexual intent. Judge Norman Moon disagreed. "There must be more than preparation," he said.
Much of the prosecution's case hinged on the testimony of Strom's wife, Elisha, right, who came home unexpectedly and found him naked, aroused and staring at pictures of young white nationalist-movement singers the couple both knew, superimposed onto nude lesbian bodies.
"She caught him masturbating, but that's not a crime so far," said Moon. Nor did Moon see the September 8, 2006, contract between Kevin and Elisha Strom in which he promised to seek counseling until he was cured of pedophilia as evidence of enticement or intimidation.
"I think the jury can find he was sexually attracted to this child," said the judge. But that alone is not illegal. And when prosecutor Gould reminded Moon of Strom driving past the girl's house, Moon replied, "That's what these people do when they're obsessed."
The morning began with the continued testimony of the government's star witness, Elisha Strom, 32, now brown-haired. Strom has been described as a fiery white supremacist in her own right by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which provided the photo above of Elisha taken at a National Alliance demonstration in November 2001 in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington.
Despite the bold background, it was a timid-sounding Elisha Strom, whose email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, who told the jury how her husband had choked her when she caught him again looking at little-girl pix. With the telephone in her hand, she recounted that she bashed him in the head, and his parents took him to the hospital.
The only time the weepy Elisha smiled was when she was asked who had the worse temper. "Me," she responded. And indeed, the jury also heard about her flinging eggs at her husband when he asked if his three children by another mother could visit for the 2002 Christmas holidays instead of just their regular summer visit. She also testified she'd met with Kevin and his parents because she wanted him to give up custody of his children, who live in Minnesota.
At times, the testimony sounded like a bad divorce. What the prosecution characterized as intimidation by legal filings, the defense said were Strom's attempts to get his property back after he moved out of the couple's home July 14, 2006. Elisha Strom acknowledged she changed the locks, had a rummage sale in September and a bonfire into which went Strom's National Vanguard materials and an antique spinning wheel.
"The filing of these suits is something the defendant is constitutionally entitled to do," opined Moon.
The trial of the nationally known and controversial Strom, who was the ideological disciple to William Pierce, the man who wrote the book that reportedly inspired homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh, drew friends and foes from the radical right. American National Socialist Workers Party founder Bill White was there, eager to see Strom go down, according to his website.
"I think Kevin Strom is a fine man," said John Justice, who travelled from Tennessee to Charlottesville to attend the trial. Justice, a Strom friend since 1994, said they were both close friends of Revilo Oliver, a professor of antiquities known as a major white supremacist intellectual in Illinois. Oliver bequeathed his 4,000-volume library to Strom, which was destroyed in Elisha's bonfire, according to Justice.
After the case was dismissed, Justice also solved the mystery of how Strom sent anonymous gifts to the little girl using the credit card of "J. Justice." Justice said it was his card and that Strom was allowed to charge $100 a month.
"He had a miserable marriage," said Justice. "He was so ashamed of being caught by his wife, she was able to force him to sign a quitclaim on his house."
"We're happy the charges were dismissed," said Heblich. "We're gratified the judge agreed the case wasn't sufficient to go to the jury."
Strom remains in custody and faces trial on five child porn charges in January.