Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trial begins for final defendant in Tampa homeless killings

TAMPA — The four members of a skinhead group called "Blood and Honour" wandered Tampa's streets in the fall of 1998, prosecutors say, on a predatory hunt they called "bum rolling."

That's what they named their vicious attacks on homeless men.

They beat Alfred Williams, 62, so savagely with a tire iron and their fists that police would find his teeth scattered around his body. Another victim, Richard Arseneau, 44, took an ax to the back of the head.

Testimony in the federal trial of one of those white supremacists, James Robertson, 32, opened Tuesday as prosecutors told jurors that a "misguided ideology of hate" drove Robertson and others to murder.

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

Robertson faces life in prison if convicted on charges of committing murder in a racketeering enterprise. The trial in U.S. District Court is expected to last several weeks.

"This is a case about hate, about violence and about murder," prosecutor Laurel Moore Lee said in opening statements.

Two other men were beaten in Tampa by the group, prosecutors say. One saved himself by jumping into the Hillsborough River, and the other escaped when a gun pointed at his chest misfired.

The cases went cold in the years after Arseneau's and Williams' deaths. Police found no evidence at the scenes to link anyone to the killings. But in 2003, an inmate facing 10 years on an armed bank robbery conviction offered information in hopes of leniency.

The snitch was Robertson.

He told the FBI and prosecutors about "Blood and Honour" and how he and others were preparing for an eventual race war.

Prosecutors say Robertson expressed horror at the killings and portrayed himself as a passive witness, instead pointing to Marovskis as the group's leader.

During the next four years, Robertson continued providing damaging information.

But his efforts backfired. As the FBI and prosecutors investigated, prosecutors say they determined Robertson played a "principal role" in the killings.

Robertson's attorney, Bjorn Brunvand, failed in a pretrial motion to get charges against Robertson dismissed, arguing that his client had been granted immunity. Prosecutors denied doing so. Brunvand told jurors Marovskis and Hoover lied to shift blame to Robertson and save themselves.

Brunvand acknowledged that his client isn't someone jurors will find sympathetic. "We don't expect you to like Mr. Robertson," the attorney said. Brunvand said his client was at the killings, "but (was) not an active participant."

Brunvand took care of one thing last week that, if it doesn't make jurors like Robertson, it may make him more presentable.

The judge agreed to his request that Robertson see a barber.

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

Trial begins for final defendant in Tampa homeless killings 10/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 12:01am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Scalise discharged from hospital, beginning rehabilitation

    National

    WASHINGTON — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise — who was critically wounded in a shooting at a baseball practice last month — has been discharged from a Washington hospital.

    House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise of La., speaks with the media on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 17, 2017. Scalise, critically wounded in a shooting at a baseball practice last month, has been discharged from a Washington hospital. [Associated Press]
  2. FWC identifies boaters seen dragging shark in viral video

    Wildlife

    Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have identified the individuals shown on a viral video dragging a shark behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water. [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  3. Steve Schale: Democrats and Republicans chose wisely for Miami senate race

    Blogs

    Democratic strategist Steve Schale breaks down the Florida Senate District 40 special election contest between Republican  Jose Felix 'Pepi' Diaz and Democrat  Annette Taddeo, saying primary voters chose right and that either could win. Diaz and Taddeo

  4. Atomic Blonde does not live up to its giant movie poster hype

    Movies

    Beware of movies spending money selling one scene, like the Atomic Blonde poster big enough to block a restroom entry, as it has for a while at AMC Westshore 14.

    Charlize Theron, left, and Sofia Boutella in "Atomic Blonde." (Jonathan Prime/Focus Features via AP)
  5. Devastated at the death of daughter Katie from a heroin overdose, Cliff and Dawn Golden have gotten busy to turn the tragedy to good. Among their causes is aiding a new organization that works to make teens comfortable seeking help for mental health problems. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]