Associated Press, Feb. 13, 2003
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A lawyer representing former Ku Klux Klan leader and politician David Duke, who faces sentencing next month on fraud charges, said he is concerned his client could be attacked by black inmates or political opponents in prison.
Duke, who left the Klan in 1980 but continued to make enemies with his anti-Jewish, anti-black speeches and writings, could be sentenced to up to 15 months in prison on March 19. He pleaded guilty Dec. 18 to charges of cheating on his taxes and mail fraud, for gambling away contributions made by his supporters.
The lawyer, James McPherson, said he is preparing a report to the sentencing judge that will bring up the possibility that Duke could be assaulted or killed in prison if he is not kept in a safe place.
“You never know, there might be someone out there who wants to kill David Duke to get notoriety like the guy who killed John Lennon,” McPherson said.
“We feel that David could potentially be a target in prison for people who may have a grudge against him,” said Vincent Breeding, national director of Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization based in Mandeville, north of New Orleans.
Some of Duke’s opponents, meanwhile, fear he will get off too easily.
“We heard that they want to send him to a camp, a real easy place where there’s tennis and golf,” said Mordecai Levy, national director of the Jewish Defense Organization. “He doesn’t belong in a camp, he belongs in a real jail. Why is Duke — this Nazi pig — getting this special treatment?”
Duke, who won a Louisiana legislative seat and made it to a runoff for governor, has plenty of enemies, according to Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s intelligence report on hate groups.
“Of course, black people as a rule are not fond of David Duke,” Potok said. “David Duke has screwed so many people in his own white supremacist movement, that he may very well be in danger from both whites and blacks.”
The Bureau of Prisons declined to say what arrangements are being made for Duke. Security concerns are weighed in assigning prisoners, said Traci Billingsley, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman.
“We try to assimilate all inmates into the general population of our institutions,” Billingsley said. “We treat all inmates in a fair, impartial and consistent manner.”
Typically, someone sentenced for a relatively short period for white-collar crime goes to a federal prison camp, where he would live in a dormitory with other inmates and have access to shared recreational areas.
But there are exceptions, and one might be in order for Duke, said Herb Hoelter, a criminal justice expert and co-founder of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives.
“They may have to look at a more secure facility and place him in administrative segregation for his safety,” Hoelter said.