Through the static hiss of two courtroom speakers the tape-recorded voice came through clear enough for all to hear.
"Like to rent a helicopter," the voice said wistfully, as the jurors and judge listened with earphones atop their heads. "Man, that would be just right. Go up there with a napalm bomb, right, drop it right on them. . . freedom marchers down in D.C. . . .right around the Lincoln Memorial. Drop two 50-gallon drums." The voice laughed.
It was the voice of 29-year-old Richard Lee Savina, self-proclaimed imperial wizard of a Baltimore Ku Klux Klan group. He is on trial in U.S. District Court here, charged with manufacturing, possessing and trying to use a firebomb on the Catonsville home of a local president of the NAACP.
His remarks had been made during an automobile ride shortly before his arrest last May. They had been recorded secretly by a Baltimore County undercover policeman and were on one of a number of tapes played in court during the first two days of a trial that has attracted considerable attention.
In a dark blue suit, light shirt and simple gray tie, the stocky, dark-haired Savina has sat impassively in the courtroom's dull yellow glow, occasionally brushing his hair from his eyes, whispering to his attorneys, and picking up a headset whenever the tapes begin to roll.
The prosecution contends that Savina took various actions in his effort to carry out the bombing plot. Defense attorneys counter that their client is a braggart and publicity seeker who never intended to act on his threats.
Beneath a sloping, wooden ceiling in the seventh-floor courtroom, the all-white jury has heard Savina's voice on tape cursing blacks and Jews, and discussing methods of making bombs from milk cartons, gasoline and candle wax or manufacturing napalm from dishwasher detergent.
Savina was arrested in May, along with nine other persons, after a three-month undercover investigation by federal and local authorities of illegal KKK activities on the East Coast. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in jail and $20,000 in fines.
Baltimore County undercover policeman Edwin Eifert, who joined Savina's invisible empire of the Imperial Knights of the KKK and rose in the small, ragtag organization to become what Savina called the group'sexalted cyclops, was on the stand today. As half a dozen onlookers and an equal number of reporters listened, defense attorney Gerson Mehlman sought to demonstrate that Savina is merely a boastful individual who sought public acclaim and left behind him a trail of unsubstantial claims andunfulfilled threats.
Eifert testified that at various times Savina claimed his organization had l,100, 2,500 and 5,000 members. In fact, Eifert said, the total was just eight, including two undercover investigators. Eifert also said that Savina had promised to buy a gun for him and had made other promises: that he was going to buy a .50-caliber submachine gun; stage a monumental cross-burning in Prince George's County on a plot of land surrounded by a fake minefield; form bomb and sniper squads, and place full-page ads espousing the views of his organization in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
After being banished from a rival Maryland KKK group, Savina, a disabled truck driver, formed his own organization last year. The police investigation of klan activities began in March after a cross-burning at a Baltimore County high school. It culminated in Savina's arrest a day afterEifert was given, for safekeeping, a fuse and a milk carton containing gasoline. Eifert testified that he and Savina had driven to an isolated location near Fort Meade on May 20 to test the incendiary device, but turned back when they saw a group of motorcyclists in the area.
Eifert was wearing a concealed microphone beneath his shirt during all of this. He said that Savina wanted to go ahead with the test anyway, and considered throwing the firebomb on the side of the road. It was during the drive back to Baltimore that Savina dreamed of performing great deeds of destruction.
"I want to make a nail bomb," Savina said at one point. "See, in a nail bomb, nails are only on one side. This way, you can toss it into a crowd and get everybody . . . .Next time they have a nigger concert at the civic center . . . just walk right in, put it where you're going to put it, and walk on. That'll get about 30,000 niggers right there."
Late yesterday David Berg, a former member of the KKK group, admitted committing three cross-burnings at Savina's behest. He said that Savina had talked of bombing the NAACP as early as lateNovember and had expressed dissatisfaction with the small amount of media attention paid to the group's cross-burnings.
Savina's wife, who declined to post $25,000 bail to have her husband released, was not present at yesterday's session, nor were their two children.