Let’s rewind to January 31. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok breathlessly reported in the group’s “Extremist News” section:
Two men, reportedly masked and dressed entirely in black, gunned down a Kaufman County, Texas, prosecutor this morning as he walked to a city courthouse. The Dallas Morning News reported that the victim had been “heavily involved” in the investigation of members of the Aryan Brotherhood.
The entire area was locked down and a search continued this afternoon for the two men who were described as having fled in a silver older model Ford Taurus. Meanwhile, KHOU-TV in Houston reported that the slain prosecutor was Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, a man who was said to be widely respected among jurists.
County Judge Bruce Wood said that courthouse security in Kaufman, a North Texas town of about 6,700 people about 30 miles southeast of Dallas, was always tight but not in the parking lot where Hasse was killed, WFAA-TV reported. Wood described the attack on Hasse as an “ambush,” the Dallas television station said.
The Aryan Brotherhood (AB) is a large, white supremacist prison gang that is infamous for its violence and its sprawling criminal empire, which also is highly active outside the nation’s prisons. A related group, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT), is known to be particularly violent, and prosecutors in that state have been aggressively moving against its members for several years now.
What followed that was a very lengthy caselog against the Aryan Brotherhood going back at least 12 years. It turned out to be irrelevant to the crimes at hand.
As we now know, the Aryan Brotherhood had nothing to do with the murders, which were not committed by “two men.” The perpetrators were husband and wife duo of Eric and Kim Williams, residents of Kaufman County. Eric had been a county justice of the peace until McClelland and Hasse prosecuted him for theft.
Both have been arrested, Eric first and then Kim. Kim was charged first, with capital murder, and according to an affidavit released this week, confessed to being the shooter in all of the murders. Eric has now been charged today with capital murder as well.
Eric Lyle Williams, 46, is charged in the shooting deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, last month, and assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse in January, Sheriff David Byrnes announced at a news conference. Williams is being held on $23 million bond.
Williams has been jailed since he was arrested Saturday and charged with making a terroristic threat for allegedly emailing an anonymous threat to law officers one day after the McLellands were found dead.
The Southern Poverty Law Center sprang back to media prominence as a result of its quick work in connecting the Aryan Brotherhood to the crimes. The SPLC had run into a snag when its “Hate Map” played a direct role in inspiring Floyd Corkins’ armed assault on the Family Research Council’s Washington headquarters last August. Corkins admitted to the crime, in which he shot a security guard, and admitted that the SPLC’s “Hate Map” helped him in his plot to commit political assassination due to the FRC’s stance favoring traditional marriage. The SPLC’s connecting the DA slayings to “white supremacists” got the multimillion dollar grievance group back into the media limelight. Mark Potok of the SPLC has been on MSNBC and CNN nearly non-stop since he tagged the AB.
He got it wrong. The media followed suit, because to many in the media the SPLC meets the standard of credible activist group, with several days of speculation that the murders were part of some wider racist conspiracy. It all culminated with federal prosecutor Jay Hileman withdrawing from a racketeering case involving the Aryan Brotherhood, on April 2, citing security concerns.
To date, as in of this writing several days after Eric Williams’ arrest, the Southern Poverty Law Center has not corrected the record in any way. It has gone about its “Hate Watch” as if the Texas murders remain unsolved. And CNN’s Piers Morgan, MSNBC’s Al Sharpton and Chris Matthews continue welcoming the SPLC’s Mark Potok onto their shows as if the group has not inspired a hate crime, and as if it didn’t create a terrible misdirection in an ongoing murder investigation. Many in the media will continue to treat the SPLC as if it has credibility, and the Family Research Council as if it does not.
The Williams’ face the death penalty for their crimes. The Southern Poverty Law Center should face a media death penalty. They have become the kind of irresponsible, extremist hate group they once nobly monitored.