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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Black man tied to actions of white supremacy group (Bridgeport, USA)

One co-defendant in the trial of two avowed white supremacists will stand out Monday morning in a federal courtroom.

That's because David Sutton is a black man -- caught up in a conspiracy to sell homemade hand grenades to what his co-defendants believed was a member of the powerful Imperial Klans of America.

For the next three weeks, Sutton will be there, with his lawyer, Frank Riccio II, listening to a litany of evidence, recordings and videotapes involving Kenneth Zrallack, the 29-year-old Ansonia man the government claims is the leader of the Connecticut White Wolves -- now known as Battalion 14 of North East White Pride -- and Alexander DeFelice, a 33-year-old Milford man described by investigators as the "dealmaker" in this case.

Prosecutors intend to call 29 witnesses and play 101 excerpts from video and audio recordings that could take about two and a half hours during the trial, which begins Monday.

Even Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry Kopel concedes, in court papers, that he has "no evidence to suggest" that Sutton, 46, of Milford, "was associated or supportive of the white supremacist movement ... He was not a member or participant."

Still, Sutton will be there -- with Zrallack and his lawyer Nicholas Adamucci to his right and DeFelice and his lawyer, Michael Hillis, to his left.

Sutton's name is the fifth of five on a federal grand jury indictment where he is charged only in the conspiracy.

Two other defendants, William R. Bolton, 31, a reputed member, and Edwin T. Westmoreland, 27, a participant, both of Stratford, pleaded guilty to charges and are awaiting sentencing.

So how does a black man find himself on trial with members of a white supremacy group, particularly in a case where Kopel claims the Wolves are attempting to bolster their presence in the white supremacy world by becoming arms suppliers to their bigger and badder brother groups?

Riccio, Sutton's lawyer, said his client "strenuously denies being part of such a conspiracy ... He hopes to be vindicated after trial."

One theory, Kopel raises in court papers, is that Sutton became involved in the hopes that his brother-in-law could buy guns from DeFelice.

None of this shocks Rachel Ranis, an emeritus professor of sociology at Quinnipiac University.

"There are always people who act as individuals," said Ranis. "They do things for individual reasons. Maybe he doesn't care about who the target is."

Clearly, Ranis said a group like the White Wolves would like having a black man as an associate.

Riccio raised the race issue during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in which he asked his client be tried separately.

"His appearance in court with the others cuts both ways," Riccio told the judge.

The Bridgeport lawyer conceded that, in one respect, having a black man on trial with white supremacists could lead to the jury to asking themselves what's wrong with this picture.

"How could a black man be involved in any respect in a conspiracy with white supremacists," he asked. "It's so night and day."

On the other hand, Riccio said his client could suffer "the spillover effect" of seeing and hearing two and a half hours of tape-recorded evidence against the others.

"He could suffer prejudice, not only legally but literally," Riccio said.

Ranis and Henry Schissler, who teaches sociology and criminology at Housatonic Community College and Quinnipiac University in Hamden, agree.

"A lot of African-Americans will be horrified by his involvement," Ranis predicted.

"People may shun him," said Schissler. "That's what typically happens when someone goes against the grain."

Court documents filed in the case indicate that, while Sutton may be an associate of DeFelice, he had no contact with Zrallack.

And most of the evidence against Sutton, who has a prior criminal record, stems from a Dec. 28, 2009, meeting at DeFelice's Milford home.

Quickly the conversation shifted to Sutton's race, according to court documents.

As the informant "was plainly flummoxed and stumbling for words," Kopel wrote, "DeFelice and Sutton ... jokingly" denied the black man's race.

"No, Dave ain't black -- Dave's Canadian," DeFelice says on the recording the informant made.

"French Canadian," responds Sutton, who then holds up his arm and says: "No. I don't call this extra crispy."

"You call it caramelized," DeFelice adds.

The trio eventually ended up at Sutton's garage in an unsuccessful search for a tap to drill a hole into the grenade shell so it could be filled with gun powder.

"There's no other evidence," said Riccio, who described his client as a handyman willing to help others.

But Kopel also claims Sutton was the person, chosen by DeFelice, "who would dispose of the completed grenades if the deal with (the IKA) broke down."

The prosecutor, who is trying the case, said he has evidence that Sutton asked DeFelice to supply MAC-11s to Sutton's brother-in-law. The prosecutor also said DeFelice and Sutton told the cooperating witness how DeFelice offered a deal to a New Haven crack dealer: He would take any guns used in a shooting and sell them to the KKK.

Schissler, who also teaches criminology, said the deal is the key to any criminal.

"They want something and that's all they care about. ... The deal supersedes race," he said. "Look at drug dealers -- they will rip off their own people. There's no remorse or empathy."