Chester Doles is a fourth-generation Ku Klux Klansman who became a leader of the National Alliance, a white supremacist organization an FBI agent called "the most dangerous group" in America.He was the group's Georgia leader when dozens of federal agents raided his home in March, arresting him on charges of a felon possessing a gun.
Doles, who is being held without bond, has become a symbol in far-right circles of an overzealous government prosecuting people with unpopular views. And with the recent addition to his defense team of First Amendment advocates former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr and his partner, Edwin Marger, Doles' case is expected to highlight the tension between the campaign against domestic terrorism and potential infringements on individual rights.Authorities contend Doles was amassing weapons and bragged that police belonged to his organization They pointed out to a judge that Doles owned a video game, called "Ethnic Cleansing," in which the object was to hunt down blacks and Jews.David Trainor, Doles' original attorney, called the accusations "inflammatory," complaining prosecutors were arguing a case against the National Alliance, not Doles. A fund-raising campaign waged on the Internet -- freechesterdoles.com -- has generated nearly $75,000 for legal fees, according to Doles' family. The case could go to trial late this year.Joe Roy of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, can't remember the white supremacist movement raising that large a defense fund. "With a good attorney, they're going to make a run at this," he said.Barr is not surprised the case has drawn attention: "Certainly, a lot of people are interested in Second Amendment cases and a lot of people are interested in First Amendment cases."It is the first case Barr, the U.S. attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990, has taken since leaving Congress this year. The outspoken, conservative Republican has repeatedly attacked the government's "invasive" actions in the war on terrorism.Marger, a self-proclaimed "bleeding-heart liberal" and a Jew, said he has no conflict defending the leader of a neo-Nazi organization. "Doles may have ideas that differentiate from the government, but the Bill of Rights says you have a right to espouse your belief," he said.
Doles was investigated for 20 months, befriended by an informer and arrested by, according to neighbors, about 70 flak-jacketed agents. "That's a lot of expenditure for a simple gun case," Marger said."The National Alliance and Mr. Doles' leadership is relevant," federal prosecutor Todd Alley argued in a hearing in March. "We have hate crime laws for a reason. To say it's irrelevant is throwing a blanket over the elephant."Doles moved to Dahlonega in 1999 to "get a fresh start," said his wife, Teresa, and to be closer to his father. Doles has eight children and three stepchildren.
"He's not a monster. I wouldn't have children with someone who was," she said last week after visiting him at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary with her young children.Neighbor Ann Jewah says she disagrees with Doles' beliefs, but found him likable and helpful. Doles' blue-eyed baby daughter is named Aryana. His 4-year-old son is named Pierce, after the late William Pierce, founder of the National Alliance and author of "The Turner Diaries," thought to have inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.Doles moved up the Klan hierarchy in Maryland and then did the same in the National Alliance. FBI Special Agent Joseph Thompson of the Joint Terrorism Task Force testified in March the "group is known commonly in law enforcement as the most dangerous in the United States.
"As a Klansman, Doles was known as a barrel-chested, long-haired, camouflage-wearing ruffian with a swastika tattooed on his hand. In 1993, he was sentenced to seven years for beating a black motorist who was riding with a white woman. He served nearly four.Daryl Davis, a black musician who interviewed several Klan leaders, including Doles, for his 1997 book "Klan-Destine Relationships: A Black Man's Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan," said Doles still sends him Christmas cards."Chester is a really smart guy. He's a very loyal individual," Davis said. "Unfortunately, he uses his intelligence and loyalty for causes I'd not rate high on my list. I think Chester would get further bringing people together."Davis calls Doles an effective leader who mixes charisma with an eye for detail. He said Doles "is probably more dangerous" than he was with the Klan. "The National Alliance is more paramilitary, more organized."
In recent years, Doles altered his appearance, dressing in business suits and sporting a crew cut. His group held meetings in a building on Doles' family land. William Pierce even paid a visit. Davis said Doles dreams of running for political office and transforming from scruffy Klansman to a well-dressed white nationalist in the mold of David Duke. Doles' wife says it was a maturing."As [Doles] grew older, his ideals grew older, more laid-back," said his wife. "He wanted a more businesslike appearance. If you present something to someone and look nice, you attract a better quality of people."He also attracted the attention of the FBI, which started investigating Doles in July 2001. Authorities raided the property March 7 and say they found 13 guns: rifles, shotguns and pistols. Marger says the guns were purchased by -- and belonged to -- other family members.In January, Doles sent out an e-mail saying he'd no longer host National Alliance meetings. He was "tired of rubbing shoulders with feds and [Southern Poverty Law Center] operatives," he wrote. "I trust no one."Teresa Doles says her husband had grown weary and wanted to spend more time with his family."Just before they came and got him, that was the happiest I've been in my life," she said.