Federal hate crimes charges are being brought against two Ohio men accused of beating a black man with a broom handle during what authorities describe as an unprovoked racial assault in Toledo.
One of the two suspects, Charles E. Butler Jr., 33, told Ohio prison officials last year that he was fascinated with and hoped to “restart” a racist group, the Aryan Republican Army. The band of domestic terrorists successfully robbed 22 banks in the mid-1990s, hoping to use the loot to start a race war.
Butler and Robert A. Paschalis, 25, were arrested on state assault charges following the May 18 assault and charged last Friday and now face federal charges of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The law, enacted in 2009, makes it a federal crime to assault someone because of their race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
The charging documents include a certificate, signed by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, that says the state of Ohio asked the federal government assume jurisdiction “because it is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.”
The suspects waived a detention hearing and are being held without bond.
Court documents allege that the beating victim, identified as “A.W.,” was loading items into his pickup truck in front of his residence in Toledo on May 18 when Butler and Paschalis drove past in a black GMC pickup displaying a small Confederate flag sticker.
After driving by, the suspects’ vehicle circled back and stopped. “Butler and Paschalis immediately exited their vehicle, approached A.W., and started a confrontation. Butler grabbed a broom from the back of A.W.’s pickup truck and began striking A.W.,” the court documents allege.
The victim told authorities he was attacked for more than a minute until two bystanders and two off-duty Ohio Public Safety Officers broke up the fight and apprehended the suspects.
“During the altercation, A.W., in self-defense, grabbed a baseball bat out of his truck and struck Butler a few times,” the documents say. The victim said that he did not say or do anything to provoke his attackers. He told authorities that Butler yelled racial slurs, calling him a “nigger” and that Paschalis called him a “faggot,” the court documents allege.
Video surveillance from a nearby business “corroborated A.W.’s recollection of the events, including that Butler and Paschalis attacked A.W. without provocation,” they say.
A witness also told investigators that he saw two white men exit the truck, both yelling “nigger” at A.W. before assaulting him with a broom handle. The two off-duty police officers who observed part of the encounter wrote an incident report “consistent with” the account provided by the witness.
When asked about the motive, Paschalis told police, “If you couldn’t tell, he’s [Butler] extremely racist,” the documents say.
Butler told investigators that as he drove past, “A.W. called him a ‘cracker’ because of his Confederate flag and the ‘Don’t tread on me’ sticker on his truck,” the documents say. In outlining the alleged “racial animus” necessary to prove a federal hate crime, the documents describe Butler as “a self-identified white supremacist.”
“He has numerous tattoos indicative of white supremacy, including the German War Eagle, a portrait of Adolf Hitler, a Swastika and a Confederate flag,” they say.
“The literature seized included recruiting materials for racial and religious hatred and causing violence throughout the State of Ohio in the name of white Christians (Aryans).
“There were also instructions on training procedures, paramilitary structure throughout the organization and weapons needed to carry out the mission of the Aryan Republican Army,” the documents say.
“Prison personnel interviewed Butler … and [he] admitted that the papers were written by him and that he wanted to restart the Aryan Republican Army which had been inactive since the 1990s. The group – also known as the Midwest Bank Robbers — was responsible for 22 bank robberies in 1994 and 1995. One of its leaders was from Ohio.”
A search of social media revealed similar evidence of Butler’s white supremacy ideology and the fact Paschalis and Butler were Facebook friends.
“Butler’s Facebook page is filled with photographs and posts of Adolf Hitler, burning crosses, Nazi war eagles, Aryan Nationalist Alliance logos, Confederate flags, the Ku Klux Klan, references to President Obama as a monkey, and various white pride symbols,” the charging documents say.
On Facebook, the day of the assault, Butler admitted his involvement in the racial assault. The criminal complaint says Butler posted a photo “showing his head with bandages on a bloody wound with the caption, ‘Nigger running his mouth but like a bitch he grab a bat… I’m in the E.R. so is the nigger. His got broken ribs. I’m fine. …just a lil pissed cuz the cops showed up while me and my brother was kicking his ass.’”