White-supremacist couple in bomb plot face longer prison terms

BOSTON –A white-supremacist couple who plotted to blow up Jewish and black landmarks in Boston are facing longer prison sentences following an appeals court’s ruling Friday that they should have been convicted of a related firearms charge.

A jury convicted Leo Felton, and his girlfriend, Erica Chase, of a charge that a pistol in their possession was part of their bomb-making conspiracy. The judge who presided over their 2002 trial set aside that verdict, saying the charge was “more of a stretch than I thought.”

But the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston sided Friday with the jury reinstating the guilty verdicts and ordering Felton and Chase to be resentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner. Federal prosecutors had appealed the point.

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“The risk created by the defendants’ possession of the gun was real enough to permit a jury to convict,” the appeals court said in its ruling. “Except in the extreme case, this is the kind of call properly left to the jury.”

The appeals court also rejected Chase and Felton’s appeal of their convictions on the grounds that evidence of their ideological beliefs prejudiced the jury.

“Unfortunately for the defendants, evidence of their beliefs and associations was highly relevant,” the ruling said.

The firearms charge carries a mandatory sentence of five years in prison. However, Gertner isn’t required to hand down longer sentences to Felton and Chase because she can take all of their convictions into account, said Chase’s attorney, Timothy Watkins.

“I believe she has the discretion to do something different than simply adding the additional five years,” Watkins said.

Felton was sentenced to almost 22 years in prison after he was convicted of charges that included bank robbery and conspiracy to rob an armored car — part of a plot that prosecutors said was designed “to ignite a racial holy war … that would promote chaos among the races.”

Felton, the son of a black father and white mother, and Chase were arrested in April 2001 when an off-duty police officer spotted her passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

Gertner sentenced Chase to four years and nine months in prison. She already has been released from prison, according to Watkins.

“She is doing quite well,” he said. “She is working, and she hasn’t gotten into any other difficulties… She has put this behind her.”

Watkins said he hadn’t spoken to his client about the ruling as of late Friday afternoon.

“We’re disappointed that they overruled the judge, who was in the best position to hear the evidence,” he said.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Associated Press, via The Boston Globe, USA
July 29, 2005
Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press Writer
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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday July 31, 2005.
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