West Virginia-based group leaves fliers

Updated: August 13, 2003, 10:56 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

EAGLE, Colo. -- A white supremacist group acknowledged Tuesday it left fliers around this mountain community telling whites not to have sex with blacks, and said the fliers were in response to the sexual assault case against NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.

The fliers were mailed or left on lawns and windshields by the West Virginia-based National Alliance. National Alliance spokesman Erich Gliebe said in a telephone interview the Bryant case was "absolutely" the motivation.

"We're concerned about areas such as Eagle County, where they have a relatively small number of blacks," he said.

Gliebe told ESPN's Shelley Smith that 3,000 of the fliers were distributed, and that the group plans to distribute more as the case continues.

The Los Angeles Lakers star, who is black, is charged with assaulting a white 19-year-old hotel worker at a resort in nearby Edwards in June. He has said the sex was consensual.

The fliers might provide the kind of evidence Bryant's defense could use to get the trial moved, according to ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack. But Cossack doesn't think lawyers will seek a change of venue, and said the flier itself is not strong enough evidence to believe the jury pool has been tainted.

Eagle County sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Andree said deputies were investigating, but the only crime that may have been committed was littering.

Earlier Tuesday, Andree said authorities knew of no connection between the fliers and the case against Bryant. She did not return a telephone message Tuesday night after Gliebe's comments.

Bryant's lawyer and a prosecutor's spokeswoman did not return after-hours messages Tuesday.

The fliers were headlined "Don't have sex with blacks." They listed the names of three black men and accused them of lying about carrying HIV when they slept with white women.

The National Alliance was founded by the late William Pierce, author of the racist novel "The Turner Diaries" that figured prominently in the Oklahoma City bombing case. Pierce left nearly everything he owned to the group when he died of cancer in July 2002.

FBI spokeswoman Ann Atanasio said the agency was monitoring the situation but taking no action.

"There is no threat contained in them," she said of the fliers. "This is apparently a common tactic used by the National Alliance."

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert was not concerned that the fliers would affect the Bryant case, spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said. Bryant's lawyer did not return an after-hours telephone message.

Andree would not say whether the National Alliance or other groups had distributed fliers in Eagle before. She did not know how many fliers had been left.

The fliers listed a Denver-area phone number that is answered by a recorded message touting white supremacy. The man on the recording identifies himself as Pierce.

Mayor Roxie Deane called the fliers "totally unacceptable." She received two were mailed to her bearing Denver postmarks.

"We are definitely not racists," Deane said of her town's 3,500 residents. "In fact, I've gone out of my way in interviews to say that. I don't know if they're offended by that."

Mark Potok, spokesman for the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors white supremacist groups, said the National Alliance often distributes similar fliers.

"They do have a history of coming in to communities where they sense some kind of racial conflict and doing their best to take advantage of that," Potok said. "I think they see that the Kobe Bryant case is getting very different reactions from white America and black America.

"They're there to exploit that position, they're hoping white people angered at this alleged rape will join them in their quest."

In December, fliers urging people to join the National Alliance were left on doorsteps and driveways in Colorado Springs. In February 2002, similar fliers bearing the alliance's name were left in Lakewood, a Denver suburb.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.