Where do these people come from? Skinhead sympathizer and Harvard senior Kathy McGaffigan took the stand yesterday in a short skirt and black fishnet stockings. Yet she combined these with sensible shoes and librarian glasses for an incongruous look that seemed an apt metaphor for this weird crew.
On one hand, McGaffigan's off to the mall, enjoying girlish love-life chats with terrorism defendant Erica Chase, 22. On the other, she's spiriting a 50-pound bag of ammonium nitrate - for bombs - out of a North End apartment and stashing a gun in the peaceful Needham home of her unsuspecting 87-year-old grandmother.
It is not clear whether this grandmother is the widow of the grandfather who McGaffigan said is an American World War II vet, or the SS officer one.
A pretty and seemingly dazed Chase looked regular enough in court yesterday, in long flowing flowered skirt, sandals and sweater. But check out the Outlaw Hammerskins Web site. There she is, with Aryan tattoos all over.
She was a convert to the white supremacist World Church of the Creator long before beginning a romance with fellow defendant Leo V. Felton.
Chase's lawyer paints Chase as a naif swayed and even intimidated by the older, outlaw Felton. Yet, while in jail, he depended on her as his main communication with the world. He seems to have communicated through her to other like-minded inmates. She set up their apartment. She got the money to buy counterfeiting equipment. And in a wonderfully Boston twist, it was an alert cop in a Dunkin' Donuts, East Boston, who brought the couple down: He saw one of the bad bills.
Then there's the towering Felton himself, who's lost so much weight in jail he looks concave, gaunt, anything but a mesmerizing mastermind - yet he's very smart.
In page after page of printed letters to Chase from jail, he goes on about how the Holocaust is a hoax and about the primacy of "Whites.'' His missives are scary, hateful and violent, yet neat, clear, compelling and grammatically perfect.
"You said the Anne Frank thing is `just kind of funny.' I don't know if you mean the same kind of `funny' that I do but I often find revisionist stuff funny.
"A survivor claimed to have been gassed six separate times. And the Canadian press not only believed this moronic story but lauded the lying kike as a hero!
"There are men behind those (prison) walls who carry within them an intensity - a barbarity - that is woefully lacking in most white men today. This barbarity (is) what I consider to be the true essence of manhood . . .
"The men who in the very near future will bring an unremitting war to our enemies and pull this rotten System to the ground, these men will not be `talkers' or soft-handed `law-abiding citizens' but outlaws, wolves. Men who are willing to risk everything . . .''
At one point he tells Chase he thinks her love of gardening "cute . . . in a good way, not condescending . . . The laws of heredity were first discovered by means of gardening . . .''
He alternately signs off, "For Blood and Soil, Leo.'' Or "Victory or Valhalla, Leo.'' Or "Until next time, take care, stay out of trouble, and keep it White . . . By the Spear of Odin, Leo.''
Where do these people come from? Felton and Chase at least seem to fit a common profile: alienated from friends and family - there have been relatives in the courtroom - they become angry and look for something to blame.
"Usually they go through several steps before they get to race or religion or both,'' said one local expert on these groups. "But you'd be surprised at how many people in the Holocaust denial industry are smart, even academics who've constructed a web of lies, a parallel world . . . just slightly wrongheaded.''
Then these people get involved in groups like the World Church. They load up on racist literature. They start going to rallies. They talk about revolt. "Finally,'' the expert said, "they get tired of talking. Now it's, `We're really going to do something,' literally. This is where this (Felton) may have been at. Ready in cold blood to actually kill people for his cause.''
Chip Berlet, who's also studied racist groups as a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, said it's not totally clear whether Felton and Chase plotted somewhat equally, or whether he in fact led her. Yet neither exchanges glances in court anymore. One theory is that because Felton has admitted he is biracial, he is now not only shunned by fellow white supremacist inmates, but by Chase as well.