PHOENIX (AP) — Defense attorneys said Thursday that two white supremacist brothers charged in the bombing of a black city official may be racist, but that doesn’t mean they’re guilty of the crime.
The comments during opening statements in federal court in Phoenix were in sharp contrast to prosecutors’ earlier depiction of identical twin brothers Dennis and Daniel Mahon as “lone wolves” who wanted to commit violence against non-whites and the government.
The 61-year-old brothers have pleaded not guilty in the 2004 bombing in which a package detonated in the hands of Don Logan, Scottsdale’s diversity director at the time. The package injured Logan’s hand and arm and hurt a secretary.
Defense attorney Deborah Williams said Dennis Mahon, is a racist and “somewhat of a performance artist” who has long been vocal about his controversial beliefs and has spoken in “crude terms designed to push people’s buttons.”
“He’d be a whole lot happier if anybody who didn’t think like him or look like him would just go away,” Williams told the jurors. But “it’s not a crime to be racist … You can’t build a fire out of smoke.”
Daniel Mahon’s attorney, Barbara Hull, painted her client as a hard-working man who’s only guilty of being Dennis Mahon’s brother.
Williams said that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wrongly focused their investigation on the Mahons because her client was such an “easy target, a noisy target,” and ignored a more likely “inside job” by city workers.
The Mahons sat quietly throughout the hours-long proceeding as Logan sat about 20 feet away, listening intently and scoffing at times.
Williams also criticized the ATF’s decision to recruit an attractive woman to befriend the Mahons and work as a government informant.
The ATF had the informant stay in a trailer at a campground in Catoosa, Okla., where the brothers were staying at the time, dress in shorts and tank tops, display a Confederate flag and talk about a fictitious plan to hurt a child molester that she knew.
Deborah Williams said the only thing the government will be able to prove against Dennis Mahon is that he was involved in “a conspiracy of lust, with Rebecca Williams at the center.”
“It was all about sex,” the attorney said. “Dennis fell hard for her … Rebecca Williams was the trailer-park Mata Hari, and she gave an award-winning performance.”
Over the course of knowing the Mahons for five years, court records show that the informant sent the men at least two racy photos of herself, taken by the ATF unbeknownst to the brothers.
One photo showed her in a leather jacket, fishnet stockings and a thong that completely exposed her buttocks, along with a note that said, “Thought you’d love the butt shot.” The other showed her in a revealing white bikini top with a grenade hanging between her breasts as she posed in front of a pickup truck and a swastika.
Dennis Mahon opened up to Rebecca Williams as the government recorded their conversations. Mahon showed her how to make bombs and bragged about bombing a Jewish community center, an Internal Revenue Service building, an immigration facility, and an abortion clinic, according to court records. Those claims have not been corroborated.
Mahon also talked to her about the Scottsdale bombing, telling her that he didn’t do it but convinced white police officers to do it.
“I just wanted to teach (Logan) a lesson the first time,” Mahon said, according to court records.
Deborah Williams pointed out to jurors that Rebecca Williams was paid for her work as a government informant and was promised $100,000 by the ATF should the Mahons be successfully prosecuted.
Prosecutor John Boyle told jurors that while Williams flirted with the Mahons, she never had sex with them and was playing a role to get the brothers to open up to her.
He said what the jurors need to focus on is that the trial is about “racial violence,” and that the Mahons belonged to a group called the White Aryan Resistance, a group that Boyle said encourages members to act as “lone wolves” and commit violence against non-whites and the government to get their message across.
Boyle showed pictures of the diversity office after the bombing and played a recording of a message left at the office by Dennis Mahon five months before the bombing.
In it, Mahon criticizes the predominantly white city of Scottsdale for holding a Hispanic heritage event and used a racial epithet for Hispanics.
“The white Aryan resistance is growing in Scottsdale,” Dennis Mahon said angrily. “There’s a few white people who are standing up.”
Boyle said that although the Mahons’ DNA wasn’t on the bomb, evidence at trial will show that they admitted their involvement to Williams. That evidence includes a detailed description of the bomb used on Logan that Dennis Mahon gave to Williams, even though such a description hadn’t been made public by officials.
“He knows exactly how that bomb was made, and that is not public information,” Boyle said.
And the same day that the bomb was left in a city library with Logan’s name on it, Boyle said that Dennis Mahon mailed a will to his home back in Illinois saying: “I am proud to have fought these evil bastards to my last breath.”
Logan said Thursday that he didn’t want to talk about the trial because he’s a witness and he didn’t want to jeopardize the prosecution. He added simply, “This is long overdue.”
Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP
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