A paid FBI informant was the man behind a neo-Nazi march through the streets of Parramore that stirred up anxiety in Orlando’s black community and fears of racial unrest that triggered a major police mobilization.
That revelation came Wednesday in an unrelated federal court hearing and has prompted outrage from black leaders, some of whom demanded an investigation into whether the February 2006 march was, itself, an event staged by law-enforcement agencies.
The FBI would not comment on what it knew about the involvement of its informant, 39-year-old David Gletty of Orlando, in the neo-Nazi event. In court Wednesday, an FBI agent said the bureau has paid its informant at least $20,000 during the past two years.
“Wow,” Gletty said when reached by phone late Wednesday. “It is what it is. You were there in court. I can’t really go into any detail now.”
Orlando City Councilwoman Daisy Lynum, whose district includes the march route west of Interstate 4, said she wants to know who was behind the march, the neo-Nazis or the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies.
“If it was staged, I would feel very uncomfortable and would ask for a full-scale investigation,” Lynum said. “To come into a predominantly black community which could have resulted in great harm to the black community? I would hate to be part of a game. It’s a mockery to the community for someone else to be playing a game with the community.”
Others applauded the FBI’s infiltration of the neo-Nazis.
“It’s one of the largest extremist groups in the country, and Gletty was one of the most visible individuals in the National Socialist Movement,” said Andy Rosenkranz, state regional director for the Anti-Defamation League. “Generally, the FBI and the JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) in Florida does an excellent job.”
Rally puts city in spotlight
Orlando drew national attention when the city granted a permit to Gletty so a minimum of 100 white supremacists and National Socialist Movement members could march Feb. 25 through the historically black Parramore neighborhood.
Wearing swastikas and holding signs declaring “White Pride,” the 22 neo-Nazis who turned out were protected from 500 counterprotesters by about 300 police officers.
Gletty’s secret life became public Wednesday in a federal court hearing resulting from the arrest last week of two suspected white supremacists on charges of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.
Last Thursday, the FBI arrested Tom Martin, 23, and John Rock, 35, after Gletty wore a wire to a meeting and agreed to help them rob a drug dealer in Casselberry, according to testimony.
Rock told Gletty in a tape-recorded conversation that he and Martin had robbed seven drug dealers by posing as law-enforcement officers, according to testimony. Martin and Rock remain held without bail in the Seminole County Jail.
Slip-up lets name out of bag
Throughout most of the hearing, Gletty was referred to as “Mr. X” or “CW” (cooperating witness). His identity was revealed when Assistant Federal Public Defender Peter W. Kenny repeatedly slipped up and mentioned Gletty’s full name.
FBI agent Kevin Farrington and a federal prosecutor were clearly uncomfortable with the disclosure of the informant’s name in open court.
Questioned about Gletty’s role in the march, Farrington testified that “he participated in it. He did not organize it. . . . [That’s] pretty good firsthand information, sir.”
The city parade permit, however, lists Gletty as the “on scene event manager.”
And pictures of Gletty addressing marchers sporting swastika armbands for the Orlando rally appear on a neo-Nazi Web site. Captions from other photos on the site mock the counterdemonstrators and the police presence.
On another Web site, Gletty details his role in organizing the Orlando event and hosting a victory party afterward.
“On 1/17/06 I got the permits and started the ball rolling,” he writes. “On 2/25/06 at 3 pm on saturday [sic] in downtown Orlando My crew and I got it done.”
Click here to find out more!
In another part of the posting, he writes: “Since I was the permit holder I was the person to deal with the police and had over-all authority of the event.”
No word from FBI
FBI officials did not return calls asking for specifics about the agency’s relationship with Gletty. A tree-trimmer in Orlando, he withdrew from the National Socialist Movement last fall to pursue other projects, Farrington testified.
Orlando police Deputy Chief Pete Gauntlett, who supervised the march preparations, would not say what the FBI told police about Gletty and other marchers.
“We let them express their free speech and let them do what they’re allowed to do, but we wanted to have control,” Gauntlett said.
Bill White, a former spokesman for the National Socialist Movement who participated in the rally and now runs another neo-Nazi group, said he was surprised to hear of Gletty’s involvement with the FBI. He said Gletty did a lot for the cause.
A neo-Nazi offers his take
“If he was being sponsored by the FBI, then American National Socialism has a lot to thank the FBI for,” White said in an e-mail.
Lynum said that if the FBI was behind the march, she would like the agency to reimburse the city for the tens of thousands it spent to send officers — including SWAT-team and mounted-unit members — to police the march.
Adora Obi Nweze, president of the State Conference NAACP in Miami, said she was disturbed an informant set up the march and was working for the FBI.
“That’s very troubling that somebody like that would be an informant for the FBI,” she said. “You never know what they are capable of. No question, it bothers me.”
But Alzo Reddick, a former state legislator who grew up in segregated Orlando, lived through KKK marches and later taught black history, said he was proud of the way the police and the community responded. He was a member of the “Be Cool” movement organized to calm the community before the march.
“I think law enforcement has to walk in some murky places to be where the bad guys are,” Reddick said. “Was the FBI informant an activist or a participant? Was he the agent provocateur from the get-go? Sure, that would be part of what I’d like to know.”
Rene Stutzman, Jim Leusner and Willoughby Mariano of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.