At the time Imperial Wizard Chris Barker allegedly participated in the brutal assault against Richard Dillon, he was on supervised release after pleading guilty to federal charges of possession of a firearm by a felon. Among the conditions of Barker’s release, his federal sentence stipulated that he not commit another crime and that he refrain from excessive alcohol use. Additionally, the conditions required that Barker “not associate or be in the company of any gang member/security threat group member, including but not limited to the Ku Klux Klan.
“The defendant shall not frequent any locations where gangs/security threat groups congregate or meet,” it went on to say. “The defendant shall not wear, display, use or possess any clothing or accessories which has any gang or security threat group significance.”
Barker’s two-month sentence after pleading guilty to the charge was lenient by almost any standard, to begin with. In comparison, Randolph Kilfoil, a member of the North Carolina Latin Kings, received a sentence of seven years in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon in the same court in 2010.
When Barker was released from his two-month stint in custody in October 2013, he seemed to routinely violate the terms of his supervised release without consequence. The prohibition against associating with the Klan posed a particular problem.
James W. Long, Chris Barker’s federal probation officer, met with him and his wife, Amanda, at their home in Eden, where they lived at the time, on Oct. 30, three days after his release.
“Mr. Barker reported that he understood the conditions of his supervision and advised that his wife, Amanda Barker, remained an active member of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK which has presented to be a challenge for our office and Mr. Barker’s supervision,” Long wrote in a report to the court.
The probation office investigated numerous allegations throughout Barker’s supervision that he was an active advocate and spokesman for the Loyal White Knights through media interviews. One was an August 2014 story on the Al-Jazeera news website involving a reporter who met two KKK members wearing robes and hoods at the post office in Pelham. The reporter followed the two Klansmen to a location beside a pond and a tobacco field.
“In the interview the lead KKK member expressed his displeasure with the immigration of individuals from other countries to the United States,” Long reported. “He voiced that if some of the illegal aliens were killed that it may send a message to others.
“It should be noted that the vehicle which appeared in the video appeared to be a Chevrolet sedan, which was dark blue in color with a Tri City license tag on the front bumper. The vehicle is a car known to have belonged to Mr. Barker at that time. The probation officer identified Mr. Barker as the KKK member in the video by the sound of his voice and by a circular tattoo which appears on his wrist.”
In August 2015, a state highway patrolman arrested Barker twice in one day before noon for driving while impaired, along with an open container violation.
“Mr. Barker reported on the day of his arrest he and his wife had been drinking with friends at his residence,” Long wrote. “Mr. Barker reported that he was driving to the ABC Store to purchase more alcohol when he was stopped by law enforcement. Mr. Barker reported that he had a bottle of alcohol that he tried to drink as the officer approached his truck. Mr. Barker reported that he was arrested and taken to the Caswell County Jail. Mr. Barker was offered the opportunity to attend substance abuse treatment, but showed no motivation to attend.”
The state charges wound up getting dropped because the state highway patrolman resigned from his position due to his own driving while impaired charge, according to federal court records.
After a meeting with the Barkers at the McDonald’s in Yanceyville in February 2016, Long also observed a bumper sticker displaying the KKK symbol and the words “100% American” on the rear window of the couple’s Dodge Durango. In yet another violation in March of that year, Long ascertained that the Barkers visited a printer in Yanceyville to have a Loyal White Knights banner made. Chris Barker reportedly produced a Loyal White Knights business card and asked the store associate to duplicate the image on the banner.
Long said when confronted with accusations about his ongoing involvement in the Loyal White Knights, Barker typically denied it or passed responsibility to his wife.
“For example, when confronted with the Al-Jazeera interview in August of 2014, Mr. Barker denied being the person interviewed, but did not deny that their personal vehicle was seen in the video,” Long wrote. “Mr. Barker stated that his wife allowed other people to use their car. As Amanda Barker is known to be active with the KKK, this creates difficulties with supervising Mr. Barker. We’ve not enforced the association condition with his wife as they reside together with their two children.”
While Long argued that Barker was in violation of the conditions of his supervised release, he noted to the court that the probation office found itself at odds with federal prosecutors.
“We’ve had ongoing discussions with the Assistant United States Attorney in this case and have had some difference of opinion regarding the interpretation of the special condition wording and what is a violation,” Long wrote.
On June 23, US Magistrate Patrick Auld found probable cause to support the revocation of Barker’s probation.
“The defendant’s family acknowledged during his original sentencing that substance abuse and negative associations have caused the defendant problems throughout his life,” Auld wrote. “Further, the defendant has three prior convictions for driving under the influence, and while on supervised release, he evidently again drove intoxicated, thus endangering the community. Moreover, the record reveals that the defendant has re-associated himself with gang members/security threat group members, and worn, displayed, used and/or possessed clothing and accessories signifying those associations. In sum, when the defendant abuses substances and pursues affiliation with security threat groups, he can quickly become involved in behavior that poses a danger to the community. Under these circumstances, the court lacks a clear and convincing basis to conclude that, if released, the defendant would not pose a danger to the community in the form of substance abuse and negative associations.”
Based on Auld’s finding, US District Court Judge James A. Beaty ordered that Barker to receive three months of home detention and that his supervised release, originally set to expire on Oct. 26, 2016, be extended an additional year.
Up to the time of the alleged assault on Richard Dillon, Long reported that Barker was making good progress.
Court documents acknowledge that Barker violated two separate conditions — not committing a crime and not associating with the Ku Klux Klan — through his involvement in Dillon’s stabbing. Yet in a remarkable piece of legal gymnastics, Barker’s probation officer argued that his probation should be retroactively terminated so that the Dec. 3 violations wouldn’t apply. Long wrote that prior to the original expiration date on Oct. 26, he had realized that Barker had already served the maximum amount of supervised release under federal statute. Judge James A. Beaty agreed to the recommendation despite the fact that, as he had written in his Aug. 25, 2016 order, “The court considered the applicable sentencing guidelines policy range, along with the nature and circumstances of the offense, the history and characteristics of the defendant, any pertinent policy statements issued by the sentencing commission, the need to provide restitution to victims of the offense, and Congress’ objective in avoiding sentencing disparities.”
The federal courts’ apparent reluctance to bring the hammer down on Chris Barker makes a little more sense in light of an allegation published by journalist Nate Thayer in July 2015, on the eve of the Loyal White Knights’ rally on the steps of the South Carolina State House, that Barker is an undercover agent for the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
In the late spring or early summer of 2012, the FBI learned of a plot by Glendon Scott Crawford, an industrial mechanic at General Electric’s Schenectady plant and a self-identified member of the United Northern & Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in upstate New York, to build a death-ray-type weapon of mass destruction to kill Muslims.
“The essence of Crawford’s scheme is the creation of a mobile, remotely operated, radiation-emitting device capable of killing human targets silently and from a distance with lethal doses of radiation,” FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Kent wrote in a July 2013 affidavit. “A central feature of Crawford’s weaponized radiation device is the target(s), and those around them, would not immediately be aware that they had absorbed lethal doses of radiation, and the harmful effects of that radiation would not become apparent until days after the exposure.”
Kent wrote that through monitoring conversations between Crawford and a confidential human source and undercover employee, “agents have heard Crawford state that he harbors animosity towards individuals and groups that he perceives as hostile to the interests of the United States — individuals he refers to as ‘medical waste.’ Crawford has specifically identified Muslims as belonging to this group.”
After unsuccessfully soliciting assistance to build the death ray, Crawford eventually found two separate groups with the apparent means and ability to obtain the type of X-ray systems he needed to make his scheme operational. Both groups, as Kent noted, were controlled by law enforcement.
In late July 2012, Crawford prepared to undergo surgery. He was concerned that he might not survive, and wanted to make sure his scheme went forward. A July 27 email message from Crawford to an undercover FBI employee, although redacted, leaves little doubt about who he thought he could count on to execute the plan. “Further, once you have my computer and phone, get ahold of ————, of the loyal white knights, 1-336-xxx-xxxx. To make certain this happens, I will have a friend names [sic] — working my end to reach you and get this stuff to you. The knights may have the resources to invest and bring the project to fulfillment. That is, if you wish to continue. If not, let me know and I will make arrangements for others to shoulder your load in this.”
Three days later, on July 30, Barker was indicted on two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon. Thayer alleges that in August he agreed to act as an informant for the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and assist in making the case against Crawford.
Kent wrote that on Aug. 23, the FBI JTTF’s confidential witness, “a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan,” met Crawford “in a small town in North Carolina” and Crawford “described the radiation emitting device he wanted to acquire.”
And on Oct. 4, Crawford met the confidential witness again in Greensboro, along with two FBI undercover agents posing as “KKK affiliates and part of a commercial mining operation that had significant financial resources.”
Barker did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. In response to a request for comment, Shelley Lynch, an FBI spokesperson in Charlotte, said the agency “does not comment on the identities of informants.”
The use of informants by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies is tricky. George Dorsett, the chaplain of the United Klans of America, acted as a paid informant under the control of the late FBI Agent Dargan Frierson in Greensboro throughout the 1960s. Dorsett’s speeches discouraging violence are widely viewed as helping North Carolina avoid the extreme racial violence that plagued Deep South states at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
But the protection that extremist informants receive from law enforcement agencies can also promote a sense of invincibility that emboldens them to commit criminal acts and terrorize people with impunity. As an example, Klansman Edward Dawson acted as a paid informant for the FBI from 1969 to 1976, according to the Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Later, as a paid informant under the control of Greensboro police Detective Jerry Cooper, Dawson led a 1979 caravan of Klan and Nazis into the Morningside Homes public housing community, where they fatally shot five communist labor organizers.
Yet it might make a certain kind of sense for the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to have its thumb on one of the biggest, most dangerous Klan groups in the nation — an outfit that acts as a magnet for unstable and extreme characters. How better to monitor the white nationalists who pose the most significant security threat? If the Loyal White Knights falls apart, where will its members go? The people who are most dangerous are often those who flit around the fringes of extremist groups, or, like Dylann Roof, imbibe their hateful propaganda and act alone.
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