Wheeler released in plea bargain

Alleged white supremacist gets probation for storing gunpowder in his home

October 30, 2003|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

An alleged white supremacist who spent four months in jail for the arsenal of weapons and mounds of gunpowder he kept in his home was released yesterday after a hearing in which he broke into an angry rant, warning the judge of the destruction of the United States, and complaining of being the subject of a "witch hunt."

Lovell "Artie" Wheeler, 61, received a suspended five-year sentence, and three years of probation, in exchange for pleading guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to reckless endangerment, possession of more than 5 pounds of gunpowder and improper storage of gunpowder.

He has called himself a "political prisoner" because he has been held in jail - first on $2 million bail and then without any bail - since his arrest July 1. He has no criminal history. Soon after Wheeler's arrest, prosecutors argued that he should be held without bail, noting the danger posed by the large amount of gunpowder and ammunition in his house.

At yesterday's hearing, Wheeler said that police used excessive force when they raided his home, and characterized the search warrant as "phony as an 18 dollar bill."

His attorney, Brian G. Thompson, said Wheeler was treated unfairly by police because of his political beliefs.

In addition to a trove of guns and ammunition, police also discovered racist and white supremacist literature at Wheeler's home in the 500 block of S. East Ave.

"This overly aggressive and thuggish conduct should be investigated," Thompson said. He added that while Wheeler's beliefs are "odious," those views should not affect his civil liberties.

Prosecutor Douglas B. Ludwig said police "absolutely did not" use excessive force when they raided Wheeler's home.

"He had enough gunpowder in there to blow up almost the entire block," Ludwig said.

Wheeler spoke to the court, invoking H.L. Mencken, and quoting George Orwell. He called the United States a dictatorship and predicted that "this country does not have much time left."

"This nation is on the brink of ruin," said Wheeler, a resident of Highlandtown. "There are organized criminals in Washington, D.C."

Police raided Wheeler's house and discovered about 80 pounds of improperly stored gunpowder, 14 rifles, eight handguns, about 100 other firearms in various stages of assembly and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The gunpowder was stored in bleach bottles, antifreeze bottles and paint-thinner cans. In addition to seizing racist and white-supremacist literature from Wheeler's home, detectives found similar material at the plastics company where he worked.

Wheeler has been held in solitary confinement at the city jail, something authorities said was for his protection because it was widely publicized that he sympathized with a white supremacist group.

The hearing began with the court clerk swearing in Wheeler, asking him if he would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

"George Orwell says, `In treacherous times, men tell the truth,'" Wheeler responded.

Police have said Wheeler was a member of the neo-Nazi group National Alliance, although Wheeler has denied that charge. The story of Wheeler's case is prominently displayed on the National Alliance Web site, which asks for donations for the "Artie Wheeler Defense Fund."

Yesterday, he said he is not a white supremacist.

"I am not a white supremacist, I am a half-breed Indian," said Wheeler, turning to journalists in the courtroom, showing his pale skin. "Can't you see my face?"

Wheeler's wife, Elizabeth, said her husband's great-grandmother was Native American.

Elizabeth Wheeler, who is a member of the National Alliance, hosts Grandmother Elizabeth's Reading Hour for White Children, an Internet radio show. She joined the National Alliance after being robbed by a black man several years ago, Lovell Wheeler said.

Prosecutors said at the hearing that Wheeler will be supervised by a probation agent, who possibly could be black. When Wheeler was arrested, prosecutors said, his wife made derisive comments to black members of the raid team. An assistant state's attorney asked if the couple would object to a black probation agent.

"One of them cut her throat," Wheeler said. "She's terrified of them."

When asked after the proceeding if a black probation agent would be a problem for her, Elizabeth Wheeler responded, "I don't think so."

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