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Skinhead convicted in killings of Tampa homeless men

TAMPA — White supremacist James Robertson couldn't keep his mouth shut.

Trying to finagle his way out of a long prison sentence for bank robbery, Robertson told authorities about two cold murder cases involving homeless men in Tampa. He pointed the FBI to three of his skinhead buddies.

Robertson, who admitted being at the murder scenes, portrayed himself as a minor participant.

But a federal jury on Tuesday convicted Robertson of committing two murders in a racketeering enterprise after a two-week trial. Prosecutors told them Robertson played a leading role in the 1998 beating deaths of Alfred Williams, 62, and Richard Arseneau, 44.

"These men had no material goods, no wealth," prosecutor Lee Bentley told jurors in closing statements. "They were struggling to survive. This defendant and three of his associates took the only thing these men had left — their lives."

Robertson, 32, faces life in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich. A sentencing date has not been set.

The killings may have gone unsolved but for Robertson's botched effort at leniency in an unrelated bank robbery case five years later.

Prosecutors say Robertson and three other skinheads were members of a group called "Blood and Honour" who wandered Tampa's streets in the fall of 1998 on a predatory hunt they called "bum rolling."

"Blood and Honour" included Jessy Joe Roten, who would himself be convicted of the shooting death of a black 6-year-old St. Petersburg girl as she slept in 1999.

The skinheads thought homeless men were inferior. So on several nights in September 1998, they went "bum rolling," prosecutors said.

They attacked Williams so savagely with a tire iron, clubs and their steel-toed boots that police would find his teeth scattered around his body. Arseneau was hit repeatedly in the head with a hand ax.

The other three members of "Blood and Honour" who took part — Cory Hulse, Kenneth Hoover and Charles Marovskis — have pleaded guilty to charges related to the deaths and are cooperating with authorities. They are awaiting sentencing.

Robertson's attorney, Bjorn Brunvand, told jurors that Robertson's skinhead friends concocted a story implicating Robertson to save themselves.

The attorney acknowledged his client wasn't a likeable guy with his skinhead beliefs. But that, he said, didn't mean Robertson was guilty.

Reach William R. Levesque at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3432.

Skinhead convicted in killings of Tampa homeless men 10/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 9:54pm]
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