Imprisoned former neo-Nazi leader William A. White received an additional seven years and eight months behind bars Thursday for his third sentence over sending violence-themed messages to those he disliked.
This time, White, 36, was punished for badgering his estranged wife with threatening emails in an attempt to extort money in late spring 2012. The new prison term handed down in federal court in Roanoke was added to the nearly three years he has left after earlier convictions.
In November, a federal jury convicted White of transmitting a threat to extort money — three counts for three emails he sent Meghan White — and a single generic threat count for one email. In giving White 92 months for those crimes, U.S. District Court Judge James Turk said he agreed with the jury that White was guilty and agreed with White’s defense lawyer, Paul Beers, that White is probably mentally ill.
Over the years, White, the former head of the American National Socialist Workers Party, has spent much time in Turk’s courtroom wearing either a dark suit for trial or green pinstripes for motions or sentencing hearings. Thursday, he was in pinstripes.
Turk, who frequently greets defendants and judicial personnel after court, stepped down from his bench and shook hands with White after the proceeding.
“Good luck,” the judge told White.
Authorities in a short time intend to relocate White to Florida, where Orlando-based federal prosecutors want to put White on trial again for threats. This time, the targets were a Florida judge, an FBI agent and a prosecutor, according to the allegations.
White, in handwritten motions sent to the Florida court, has denied the five charges, each of which bears a maximum 20-year term.
A Maryland native who first came to Roanoke about 10 years ago and entered the rental housing business, White has spewed racist and hate-themed messages at a wide range of targets using email, telephone and the Internet.
Among those that resulted in a criminal conviction, the targets included a bank employee from Missouri, a university administrator from Delaware, a human rights lawyer from Canada and two tenants of an apartment complex in Virginia Beach.
The messages to his wife threatened violence but weren’t explicitly racist.
At the time he emailed his wife, White had fled what he thought was the reach of federal authorities by absconding to Mexico. But White walked into an arrest sting at a Mexican Walmart and has been in custody ever since.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia on Thursday asked the judge to give White at least 17 and a half years — 10 more than he ended up getting.
Prosecutors argued that White deserved a “career offender” designation that extends the imprisonment of anyone convicted of a felony crime of violence after two prior such felonies. Although never accused of physically attacking anyone, his actions amount to “an electronic reign of terror,” prosecutors said.
Turk declined to deem White a career offender. One of two qualifying felony convictions on White’s record had been nullified on appeal at the time he threatened his wife two years ago. Although it was later reinstated, Turk took the position White had just one felony under his belt when he sent his wife the threats and didn’t meet the definition of a career offender.
Turk agreed with prosecutors that White obstructed justice by testifying during the trial that he didn’t send the emails, a finding that slightly hiked his sentence.
Then, Turk expressed what he described as a significant concern with the prosecution.
“I think the government is trying to prosecute you for your beliefs, largely for your beliefs,” Turk told White. “If you hadn’t been Bill White, prosecution would have been in state court.”
Turk said authorities probably would have processed in juvenile and domestic relations court a matter like White’s involving somebody else. But, continuing the point, Turk told White he’s virtually a public figure and the general public disagrees with his views.
U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy, in a statement released later in the day, defended his office’s handling of the case.
“We strongly disagree with Judge Turk’s statement that William White was prosecuted because of his beliefs. William White was prosecuted for issuing an ominous threat to the victim in this case, who took the threat seriously and feared for her safety. Mr. White’s acts were clearly criminal, as the jury found in this case,” the statement said.
White’s prior multiple federal convictions in two federal districts, and not his beliefs, drove the decision to charge him over the threats to his wife, the statement said. “This office does not prosecute people for espousing any particular views or opinions,” the statement said, “however odious those opinions may be.”