NEW PORT RICHEY — One of the infamous Teak Street neo-Nazis may yet get another day in court.
James Allen Hammond, the former sergeant at arms of the defunct white supremacist group, won an intermediate appeal Wednesday from a high court. Hammond, now 41, pleaded guilty to attempted murder in 2005 for slashing a man's throat during a fight outside a bar. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison followed by 12 years probation and has been trying to withdraw the plea ever since.
When the knife fight occurred in late 2004, the neo-Nazi group was largely unknown but living openly in a modest mobile home in Griffin Park where they flew swastika flags and Confederate flags. They wore red and black uniforms and drank heavily and blasted white supremacist music. They professed hatred for cops, African-Americans and homosexuals.
One night in March 2006, a woman and teenager living next door were stabbed by a masked intruder. The teen, Kristofer King, died, and months later authorities charged John Allen Ditullio, a recruit in the Nazi group.
It took two trials, but Ditullio was convicted in December of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
The group's former president, Brian Buckley, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for burglary. Authorities said that about two weeks before the stabbings, Buckley and his cohorts chased the neighbor, Patricia Wells, into her home, screaming racial epithets. Buckley put his tattooed fist through her door as Wells and her son hid inside.
Other members have been in and out of jail.
Hammond, who went by the nickname "Hammer," was accused of nearly killing William Tooker in an argument over a woman known as the "Aryan Princess." He pleaded guilty just as his attempted murder trial was about to start. After he was given the long prison sentence, Hammond asked to withdraw the plea, arguing that his lawyer promised him he would serve much less time.
A judge denied the request in 2007 and the case appeared final. But the Second District Court of Appeal, in an opinion released Wednesday, found merit in two of Hammond's other claims. The higher court agreed there was no evidence that he had been promised a lighter sentence. But the DCA ordered a trial judge to look further into Hammond's claim that his lawyer never deposed a witness who might have offered favorable testimony and didn't advise Hammond that he could have claimed self-defense in the case.
The decision is no get-out-of-jail-free card, however. The DCA said the trial judge should consider whether these claims are "facially sufficient." If they are, then an evidentiary hearing should be held, the court said, and only after that could Hammond's plea be withdrawn.
He would then have to face a jury.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.