Skinhead witness has no use for minorities

Emily Ehersman doesn't care much for black people, Native Americans or Jews.

Billings Gazette/November 2, 2001
By Tom Howard

She and her fiancee, Sean Allen, believe that Adolf Hitler helped purify the white race by murdering millions of Jews and other ethnic minorities. In her Aryan interpretation of the Bible, Jews were born after a biblical figure mated with Satan.

She has a swastika tattoo, often refers to minority groups as "mud people," and she says it's not a crime to believe the way she does.

Ehersman wasn't happy about having to testify in a federal civil rights trial in which her fiancee is a defendant. But she was there Tuesday at the insistence of federal prosecutors.

On trial are Allen, 29; Eric Dixon, 23; Jeremiah Skidmore, 24; Jason Potter, 27; Ryan Flaherty, 24; and Michael Flom, 25. A grand jury indictment charges the defendants with one count of conspiring to violate the civil rights of racial and religious minorities. All but Skidmore also face three counts of violating the federally protected civil rights of racial and religious minorities. Each crime carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The trial entered its seventh day Tuesday in U.S. District Court before Judge Richard Cebull. Prosecutors rested their case after Ehersman's testimony. The first defense witness, Dixon's father, testified briefly Tuesday afternoon.

In an emotional exchange, federal prosecutor Mark Blumberg reminded Ehersman that she had lied to federal officials before her testimony in front of a federal grand jury.

"When we met in May, you lied to me didn't you?" Blumberg said.

"I lied to everybody there," Ehersman said.

"You lied to protect Sean, didn't you?" Blumberg said.

"Yes," she replied.

Blumberg refreshed her memory by making numerous references to her testimony before the grand jury.

Federal prosecutors put Ehersman on the witness stand Tuesday in hopes of shedding some light into the workings and motivation of the Montana Front Working Class Skinheads. All six defendants in the case are either MFWCS members of have ties to the group.

Ehersman testified about how members of the skinhead organization earned the right to wear the group's distinctive attire - red boot laces and red suspenders.

Federal prosecutors are trying to prove that the Montana Front Working Class Skinheads and associates conspired to assault racial minorities in order to gain status within the group. Two former skinheads have testified that members of the group earned the right to wear red boot laces by answering three history questions. But they were required to beat minorities in order to earn the right to wear the red suspenders.

Allen, Dixon and Skidmore, all recognized as leaders in the group, granted permission for other members to wear the suspenders. The three also ordered former members Jeremiah Johnson and Thomas Edelman not to wear their "laces and braces" until they had earned them, Ehersman testified.

Much of the prosecution's case has centered on a barbecue at Allen and Ehersman's house on July 29, 2000. People attending the barbecue decided to organize a park patrol, an organized effort to rid Pioneer Park of racial minorities. Later that night, three people - all racial minorities - were accosted and chased from the park by a group of about nine people who had attended the barbecue.

Ehersman said defendant Potter first suggested the patrol, and others at the barbecue had agreed to it. She also insisted that Allen and Dixon had tried to discourage the park patrol.

Ehersman also testified that a Billings contingent visited the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho, during July 2000. Several Billings people, including some of the defendants, were part of that group.

Ehersman handed out swastika armbands to the Billings group during a ceremony in which a giant swastika was burned. The Billings group was recognized "for putting together a good crew." But she denied that the visit was intended to help Allen or Dixon gain special status within the Aryan Nations organization.

"We were there because it was safe, a place where we could feel good," Ehersman said.

Under cross- examination, Ehersman described the MFWCS as a group of like-minded people who believed in hard work, strong families and abstaining from drugs.

Also Tuesday, Cebull denied several defense attorneys' motions to dismiss the charges against the defendants.

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