FORT SMITH, ARK. -- A dozen white supremacist sympathizers picketed the courthouse and dozens of extra officers were put on security duty as jury selection began for the trial of 14 men accused of plotting to overthrow the government or kill federal officials.
The trial, which centers on the charge of seditious conspiracy, is the fourth federal case in recent years targeting white supremacist activities.
Ten of the defendants are accused conspiring to overthrow the government by force. Five are accused of conspiring to kill a federal judge and an FBI agent and two are accused of transporting across state lines money stolen from an armored truck in California in 1984.
The defendants have been identified by the government as white supremacists, members of a variety of right-wing, racist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan and The Order. Prosecutors contend that they sought to establish an Aryan nation and robbed, bombed, killed, counterfeited and committed other crimes in an effort to reach their goal.
About 40 extra security officers were on hand as lawyers and U.S. District Court Judge Morris S. Arnold began interrogating 127 prospective jurors.
The defendants include three of the men regarded as top supremacist leaders:
Louis Ray Beam Jr., 41, of Houston, a former grand dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Texas. Texas authorities said Beam led a campaign of violent intimidation of Vietnamese fishers in the Galveston area.
Richard Girnt Butler, 69, leader of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian (Aryan Nations) of Hayden Lake, Idaho. His church has attracted some white supremacists, including some who formed a group named The Order, which turned to violence in an effort to bring down the national government, according to government investigators.
Edward Miles, 63, of Cohoctah, Mich., leader of the Mountain Church of Jesus Christ the Savior at Cohoctah. A former grand dragon of the KKK in Michigan, Miles was convicted in 1973 in the bombing of empty school buses in Pontiac, Mich., then under a court order to desegregate its schools.