Trial begins for man accused of being ‘Unknown Terrorist’

The leader of a Ku Klux Klan splinter group was also known in a white supremacist newsletter as the “Unknown Terrorist” who built and gave pipe bombs to others and taught them to do the same, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

David Wayne Hull, 41, of Amwell Township, Washington County, is accused of possessing unregistered firearms, giving parts of a bomb to another man and building those parts. He also is charged with teaching Klan members and sympathizers to make the devices at his Washington County farm, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, and through a newsletter and articles he circulated.

“The defendant was a man on a mission … and his mission was to encourage, to teach others, or to engage in and further a federal crime of violence and that federal crime of violence was the possession of a pipe bomb,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Picking said in her opening statement at Hull’s federal trial Tuesday.

Hull’s federal public defender, W. Penn Hackney, said Hull’s views, while “radical and abhorrent,” aren’t illegal.

“Those beliefs are, charitably put, outside the mainstream of public discourse,” Hackney told the jury, which includes one black woman.

Hackney doesn’t deny that Hull led the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan or published a related newsletter, Knightwatch, but warned the jury against focusing on Hull’s beliefs instead of the evidence _ or, what he sees as the lack of it. Hackney said the government won’t be able to prove Hull possessed at least two pipe bombs and a gun silencer, nor that he ever advocated their use in violent crimes.

In particular, Hackney said the two key witnesses against Hull are a man charged with federal crimes who is looking to stay out of jail, and John Carmelo, whom Picking described as a “former white supremacist sympathizer.” Carmelo was paid $47,000 to act as a government informant during the Hull investigation, which began in mid-2002 and ended with his arrest last year, Hackney said.

“But there is no evidence of actual violence … just people pointing fingers at one another about who exploded the bombs,” Hackney said.

Picking said two bombs were exploded in abandoned cars on Hull’s property. Hackney said Carmelo posed as a member of the Army of God, a group that has praised those who kill abortion doctors and bomb clinics.

But Hackney said Hull suspected Carmelo was “a fed” and while he humored Carmelo by letting him hang around, Hull never trusted Carmelo. Hull is accused of giving Carmelo parts for a pipe bomb, but didn’t give him a fuse _ which Hackney suggested was purposeful.

“It’s a way of safely keeping (Carmelo) under observation,” Hackney said of Hull’s apparent cooperation with Carmelo. “The surveilled doing the surveillance.”

Hull has been in federal custody since February 2003 and faces at least a two-week trial on nine counts.

Among the counts is one accusing him of tampering with a witness. Picking said Hull attempted to persuade a legal secretary woman who sometimes helped publish his newsletters to deny to authorities that she knew he was the “Unknown Terrorist,” which Picking said was Hull’s pen name.

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