Forward, July 19, 2002
By SEAMUS McGRAW
The minute Leo V. Felton, the man who stands accused of trying to launch a race war in New England, walked through the gates of New Jersey’s maximum security Northern State Prison three years ago, prison officials knew he was a man they were going have to watch, and watch closely.
He was, they would later say, a 6-foot-7-inch walking billboard for racism. A charismatic career felon and member of the pagan White Order of Thule, he had the word “SKIN” tattooed on one side of his shaven skull and “HEAD” on the other. If he had any qualms at all about walking into a predominantly black prison population, he didn’t show it.
What authorities didn’t know at the time was that Felton had a secret which, if discovered, would put him in jeopardy with his fellow white supremacists at Northern State. Authorities didn’t know that Felton — now standing trial in federal court in Boston on charges of conspiring with his girlfriend to blow up Jewish targets — was half black. They didn’t know that his mother was one-fourth Jewish, a lesbian and former nun who counted radical priests Philip and Daniel Berrigan as friends. It wasn’t so long ago that the man accused of trying to “rid the United States of a multiracial society” attended a Martin Luther King memorial with his mother and her lover, proudly sporting a T-shirt with the slain civil rights leader’s picture on it. Felton’s story reads like a real-life version of Henry Bean’s film “The Believer,” in which a yeshiva student becomes a Neo-Nazi.
It was only after his arrest last year in Boston that word of Felton’s mixed ethnic heritage leaked out.
Now, the word on the cellblock is that Felton’s Aryan brothers have turned against him.
“The way I understand it, he’s been put on knockoff,” said John Antinoro, an investigator for the Department of Corrections who specializes in tracking gangs behind bars and who spent many an hour chatting with Felton during his nine-month stay at Northern State.
“The information we’ve been getting is that his credibility is shot within the white supremacist movement.”
Felton, now 31, had been out of prison less than four months when he and his 22-year-old girlfriend, Erica Chase, were arrested after they tried to pass a bogus $20 bill at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Boston in April 2001.
Always an unruly child, within a few years of Clinch’s death, Felton became a full-fledged juvenile delinquent, his mother said.
By the time he was 24, Felton was facing hard prison time in two states.
At first, Vincelette said, it seemed that prison might have been doing Felton some good. He dabbled briefly with Eastern Rite Christianity. “I was happy that he was exploring something spiritual,” she said.
She remembers him getting excited when he stumbled across the writings of Carl Jung. There was something about Jung’s visions of archetypes that appealed to the young man, she said. And when he turned from Jung to studying Greek mythology, she encouraged that, too. “For the first time, we were really talking.”
But with his conflicted sense of racial identity, it was a short step from Jung to the quasi-Wagnerian doctrines of the White Order of Thule.
Founded in the early 1990s, the White Order of Thule is a loose-knit society of white supremacists linked by their devotion to ancient Nordic and Teutonic myths. The group draws heavily on Greek mythology as well, and requires its acolytes to study the works of, among others, Friedrich Nietzsche. “The White Order of Thule is a brotherhood — a loose alignment of Aryan minds, hearts and souls,” according to their literature.
Though the organization does not overtly advocate violence — it claims to be a religion, protected by the same laws that shield black nationalist organizations from harassment — the White Order of Thule is seen as a magnet for dangerous racists in prison. By the time Felton arrived at Northern State Prison, he was one of its leading apostles, Antinoro said.
Almost immediately after Felton arrived at the prison, authorities started to notice a worrisome upswing in white supremacist activity. “The numbers of white supremacists in our institutions are miniscule but they can be the deadliest,” Antinoro said. White supremacist groups are known to have a particular skill for fabricating zip guns, a prison guard’s worst nightmare. “They’re very good at making weapons and hiding weapons,” Antinoro said. “Usually, if there’s weapons, you try to find out if there are any white supremacists in the area.”
Prison authorities watched Felton closely, Antinoro said. “We had information that he was part of the East Coast Aryan Brotherhood,” Antinoro said. “He was always in these white supremacist groups, he was always dealing with these guys. Plus, he makes no bones about who he associates himself with…. He’s definitely a hard-core white supremacist.”
In fact, perhaps drawing on his mother’s civil rights background, he became a leading advocate for the rights of white supremacists behind bars, Antinoro said. “We started to have some white supremacist activity in the institution… so we went to him… and he says ‘You leave the Five Percenters and the Nation of Islam alone, why can’t you leave us alone?'” Antinoro recalled. The Five Percenters is a black supremacist group active in numerous prisons.
In January 2001, Felton left prison, left his wife and returned to Massachusetts to live with Chase, a devotee of the World Church of the Creator, a self-described “non-violent, progressive, pro-White religious organization.” The two had begun corresponding while Felton was behind bars. Four months later, Felton and Chase were arrested.
Felton’s mother, who also spent much of her life pursuing the dream of creating “a new and better world,” though based on a different model, said it is likely her son will spend decades behind bars. There is, however, one thing she prays for. “I hope that wherever he goes, there will be some Godly grace that will touch his life and he can make good on his potential.”
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