Klansman Was Properly Convicted
(CN) - The 4th Circuit ruled that a self-styled Ku Klux Klan "grand dragon" was properly convicted for a plot to blow up a North Carolina courthouse, sheriff's office and county jail, and found that his "illegal possession of firearms and explosives can together be seen as facilitating his Klan activities."
Charles Barefoot Jr. appealed six convictions and a 180-month prison sentence, levied in 2013, claiming his trial and sentencing were "riddled with legal infirmities."
A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms deputy, acting on confidential information, stopped Barefoot in traffic in July 2002. The deputy allegedly searched Barefoot's van with consent, and found two loaded semiautomatic handguns beneath the driver's seat.
The ATF searched Barefoot's home hours later, where they "discovered component materials for explosives, Ku Klux Klan clothing and propaganda, and 25 firearms (predominantly shotguns and rifles) in proximity to more than four thousand rounds of ammunition," the Monday ruling states.
A concurrent search of the home of Barefoot's 18-year-old son, Daniel, turned up two Kinestik binary explosive cartridges wrapped in newspaper and stored in a freezer, the ruling adds. Daniel, a Klansman in his father's group, allegedly told federal agents that Barefoot had given him the explosives, called "liquid dynamite."
Charles Barefoot was indicted in North Carolina District Court in 2002 on a single count of possessing a firearm while subject to a domestic violence restraining order. Earlier in the year, a state judge found, Barefoot had held a 9mm pistol to the head of his wife, Sharon, and threatened to kill her - to which he pleaded guilty.
In a plea agreement for the firearm and explosive charges, Barefoot admitted to receiving the Kinestik cartridges in exchange for a hunting dog.
Barefoot also allegedly recounted a meeting with three Klansman - Glen Gautier, Michael Brewer, and Mark Denning - over a "problem" with Lawrence Petit, a fellow Klansman in coastal Carteret County, N.C., whom Brewer had branded an informant.
The group aimed to move Petit inland to Robeson County, or, failing that, to "get rid of him," the ruling states.
Barefoot allegedly permitted the Klansmen to use his van, and loaned Gautier two firearms. When the trio returned hours later, they told Barefoot that Denning had shot and killed Petit. The corpse was buried in Gautier's brother's hayfield, they added.
Gautier allegedly handed Petit's wallet to Barefoot as proof of death, and Barefoot destroyed it with a blowtorch.
Barefoot ultimately served 27 months in prison for the federal firearms conviction. Upon his release in 2004, he was charged and detained by state authorities in connection with the Petit murder.
While in state custody, Barefoot was again indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
A superseding indictment, filed in August 2006, charged Barefoot "in Count One with conspiracy to receive, possess, conceal, store, barter, sell, and dispose of stolen firearms, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 922(j); in Count Two with the substantive § 922(j) offense; in Count Three with solicitation of another to assist in damaging and destroying by explosive the Johnston County Courthouse and Sheriff's Office, part of which was leased to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, see id. §§ 373(a), 844(f)(1), 844(i); in Count Four with receiving an explosive (the Kinestik cartridges) with the intent that it be used to kill, injure, or intimidate other persons and to damage and destroy buildings, see id. § 844(d); in Count Five with a misdemeanor charge of improperly storing explosive materials, see id. §§ 842(j), 844(b); and in Count Six with distributing explosive materials to an individual (Daniel) under twenty-one years of age, see id. § 842(d)(1)."
Barefoot, according to testimony by Gautier, schemed to blow up a Johnston County courthouse, sheriff's office and jail after blaming Sheriff Steve Bizzell for the failure of the Barefoots' fledgling bar, The Enchanted Barn, which another witness described as "a backwoods bootleg bar or something."
Bizzell allegedly denied Barefoot's Klan group a permit to march in a local parade, which served to fuel Barefoot's "hatred."
"According to Gautier, Barefoot spoke 'several times' of 'getting back' at Sheriff Bizzell by 'blowing the courthouse up,'" the 57-page ruling states.
Defense counsel expressed concerns over Barefoot's mental health at a motions hearing in 2007.
Though government professionals diagnosed Barefoot as suffering from delusional and personality disorders, leading to dismissal of the murder charge, charges against him proceeded after he was deemed to have regained competency in 2011.
Barefoot was found guilty on all six charges in February 2013 and sentenced to 60 months in prison on count one; to a consecutive term of 120 months on counts two, three, four and six, running concurrently; and to 12 months on count five, to be served at the same time as the cumulative 180-month term.
On appeal, Barefoot claimed that his trial and sentencing were riddled with legal infirmities.
Specifically, Barefoot claimed, the district court denied him the opportunity to represent himself, denied his motion in limine to exclude the Petit evidence, denied a motion to dismiss counts four through six as violations of the plea agreement, and overruled his sentencing objections pursuant to sentencing guidelines.
The 4th Circuit this week upheld four of the six convictions against Barefoot, finding that two "did not materially affect his sentence."
Specifically, the three-judge panel found, the "district court properly evaluated the charged criminal conduct as a unitary whole."
The 4th Circuit affirmed, reversed and remanded in part the district court's decision.
"Viewed in the proper context, it is evident that the district court did not clearly err in ascertaining a connection between the firearms offenses and the explosives offenses," Judge Robert King wrote. "That connection permitted the court to apply the higher base offense level to the firearms offenses, and it also supported the court's grouping of the various offenses for sentencing purposes into what was, more or less, a unified whole. ...
"(B)ecause the latter two convictions did not materially affect his sentence - which was otherwise properly calculated - we do not remand for Barefoot to be resentenced," the ruling adds.