FORT SMITH, Ark. -- One of 14 white supremacists on trial for conspiring to overthrow the government and kill federal officials considered changing his plea to guilty Tuesday because of a judge's ruling that allows a statement he gave the FBI to be introduced as evidence.
U.S. District Judge Morris Arnold said he would allow the prosecution to introduce a statement Bruce Pierce made to FBI agents in Georgia in March 1985. Pierce is serving 150 years in prison for a civil rights conviction in the killing of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg.
Pierce, a former member of the white supremacist group The Order, said after the ruling he wanted to plead guilty. Details of the statement have not been disclosed.
Arnold, however, delayed accepting the change in plea and gave attorneys and defendants a chance to meet privately in the courtroom Tuesday afternoon.
After the meeting, Pierce's attorney, Bennett Nolan of Fort Smith, Ark., said Pierce will make his decision known Wednesday.
Berg, a Jew, was shot to death in his driveway on June 18, 1984. Denver District Attorney Norman Early declined to file murder charges, citing problems with evidence. Pierce and David Lane, who is also in trial in Fort Smith, were convicted of conspiring to violate Berg's civil rights and sentenced to 150 years in prison.
Also Tuesday, a former member of The Order described for jurors a list of crimes that members of the white supremacist group had committed or discussed committing in trying to establish a new government.
Jim Dye said he was involved in the slaying of Aryan Nations member Walter West in 1984 because he was considered a security risk.
He said he had discussed with defendant Ardie McBrearty the possible murder of suspected FBI informant Thomas Martinez of Philadelphia but he said no plan was developed. Martinez was formerly affiliated with the right-wing National Alliance and the Ku Klux Klan.
McBrearty, 60, of Gentry, Ark., was affiliated with The Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord, and was a legal adviser and intelligence chief with The Order. He is one of the 10 accused of conspiring to overthrow the government and replacing it with a white nation based in the Pacific northwest.
One of those and four others also are on trial for conspiring to kill a federal judge and an FBI agent in Arkansas. Seditious conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $20,000 fine.
The prosecution contends such offshoots as The Order and the CSA were used to raise funds though robberies and counterfeiting and to create chaos through assassinations and other acts to help establish a so-called 'Aryan Nation.'
Dye said The Order felt the FBI was closing in on the group in October 1984. He claimed Order leader Robert Mathews wanted to declare war on the government at that time but other members did not think the time was right.
Dye said Mathews, who was killed in a shootout with FBI agents in December 1984, told him the group's goals were to get money through armed robberies and counterfeiting to help finance their cause.
He said Mathews talked about assassinating federal judges and FBI agents, cutting off power to major cities, and poisoning water supplies. Dye said the poisoning would be blamed on blacks so it would lead to a racial war.