A 40-year-old Reno man that police call a “one man Aryan nation” was arrested on a federal charge accusing him of mass e-mailing violent threats to Nevada and California Jewish communities, minority groups, law enforcement officials and members of the media.
Steven Holten, unemployed, and the self-proclaimed leader of the Aryan Nations of Reno, Nevada, was arrested Wednesday on a federal charge of transmitting a threat by interstate commerce, Reno police said. Holten is the first suspect in Reno accused of sending violent hate threats, which authorities intercepted by tracing an e-mail, Acting Police Chief Jim Weston said.
Reno police said Holten recently purchased a handgun, which later was recovered during a search of his apartment, along with a laptop computer he allegedly used to send the threat.
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According to the Nevada Department of Public Safety, there were seven hate crimes reported in Washoe County in 2003. Reno police investigated two reports: one anti-black and one anti-Asian. Washoe County School Police investigated the rest: three anti-black, one anti-homosexual and one anti-Hispanic. The outcomes were unknown.
Holten appeared in federal court in Reno on Thursday morning and was denied bail and remanded to the custody of the Washoe County Jail.
Police said Holten allegedly sent a mass e-mail Monday that said the Aryan Nations of Reno, Nevada will carry out “terrorist actions that will be gruesome and something that has never been seen in Reno and San Francisco.” He detailed violent acts that would be carried out on people and groups on its “most wanted list,” including Jews, minorities, homosexuals, federal and local law enforcement officials, drug dealers, members of the media and anyone against white supremacy.
Holten was arrested days before the end of the Jewish community’s 10-day High Holy Days observance. Religious services for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begin at sundown today and end Saturday night at local synagogues.
“I think it’s wonderful (Holten) was arrested at this time and has caused the Jewish community to breathe a sigh of relief,” said Bill Maniaci, international chairman of the Reno Jewish Defense League, a recipient of the e-mail. “We’re not going to take our guard down because these people are like cockroaches: you find one and then there’s a hundred more around.”
Police said Holten admitted to penning the e-mail in San Francisco with a member of the Aryan Nations of Reno, Nevada whom he said he knew only by his first name.
“Our impression is that he is a one-man Aryan nation,” Weston said of Holten, who has neo-Nazi SS lightning bolts tattooed on his neck. “No one wants these types of threats and that is not the conduct one would expect.
“This is not a First Amendment issue, this is harassment.”
Police said that although Holten has sent threatening e-mails during the past year to various Jewish and minority groups, and to the Reno City Council, the messages did not meet the legal standard to be considered a terrorist threat — until Monday.
Rabbi Menashe Bovit of Temple Emanu-El, which was spray-painted with anti-Semitic graffiti earlier this month, said Thursday that while he respects the right of free speech, Holten’s alleged e-mail crossed the line. He said he also received the threatening e-mail.
“What’s wonderful about America is that people have the freedom of speech whether you like it or not,” Bovit said. “I don’t care that this guy and his fellow misfits don’t like me, and however misguided or ridiculous their views are, because that is their right.
“But threatening violence and terrorism in this God-blessed nation is not acceptable.”
The recent vandalism at Temple Emanu-El is not the first. On Jan. 1, 2001, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the synagogue, igniting its wooden doors. And in 2000, five skinheads were sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison for an attempted firebombing at the synagogue in 1999.
Bovit said there was “no way” the threatening e-mail would deter members of the Jewish community from practicing their religion and “enjoying being Jewish.” He said the overwhelming attitude in the community toward Jews has been positive.
“All humans have the potential to be good, even this guy who was arrested,” said Bovit, who has been in Reno 14 months.
Weston said Holten is well-known to police as “being centered around some issue of hate.” He said Holten on several occasions has confronted officers at the police station and asked questions about gun permits.
Additionally, Weston said police received many reports that Holten aggressively tried to recruit members for his white supremacist group inside local restaurants and businesses.
“We will not tolerate threats of this nature and will aggressively pursue these types of criminals,” Weston said.