The strange case of a home-grown terrorist


Investigation Discovery

Jonathan Hutson tells the fascinating story of what happened after a white supremacist in Kalispell made repeated threats to shoot up an elementary school.

A lengthy report on what happened in the legal system after a Kalispell resident threatened repeatedly to slaughter schoolchildren was published online Thursday by Political Research Associates.

Headlined “Racial Double Standards in a Mass Shooting Threat Case: David Lenio & White Nationalism,” the piece by Jonathan Hutson argues that Lenio was treated leniently—and even had his guns returned by the state of Montana—because our judicial system routinely tolerates activities on the part of white terrorists which, if indulged in by, say, a person of Middle Eastern extraction or Islamic background, would bring down swift punishment.

The long piece, complete with numerous footnotes, is  also scheduled to appear in the spring edition of Public Eye, a magazine published by Political Research Associates, a Massachusetts think tank whose stated mission is “Challenging the Right, Advancing Social Justice.”

Hutson, meanwhile, is a human rights activist and “strategic communications consultant” at Global Media Max in Washington, D.C., whose involvement in the case has been mocked by a columnist for the Flathead Beacon.

But all indications are that Hutson did not go looking for this fight (and he did a good job of responding to the mockery). As he explains in his article, he was working on behalf of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence when, on Valentine’s Day 2014, he sent out some Tweets about two deadly shootings in Denmark.

His Tweets put him on the radar of Lenio, who had recently moved to Kalispell from Michigan and who, as it developed, had been Tweeting out numerous threats to kill schoolchildren and Jewish leaders. On the day he arrived in Kalispell in December, 2014, Lenio sent out a Tweet that read: “I David Lenio am literally so indebted & #underpaid that I want to go on a sandy hoax style spree in a kalispell, MT elementary #school 2014.”

Apparently he was in the habit of referring to the mass slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as “Sandy Hoax” because he believed Israel was behind the incident. Another Tweet read: “I bet I’d take out at least a whole #classroom & score 30+ if I put my mind to it.” He also wrote of wanting to “put two in the head of a rabbi.”

Hutson was alarmed enough to report Lenio’s threats to the FBI, touching off the criminal investigation and subsequent court proceedings that ultimately resulted in nothing but a deferred prosecution for Lenio—basically two years of probation.

“From this relatively front row seat to the legal process,” Hutson writes, “I would come to witness what many communities of color already have intimate knowledge of—the structural disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system. While people of color and Muslims encounter many ‘on-ramps’ into the system, a White mass shooting threat suspect instead found numerous easy exits and ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards.”

There is much, much more in Hutson’s piece, including some background on efforts  by white supremacists to establish a whites-only haven in northwestern Montana, and an interesting discussion of how white mass shooters are often presumed to be mentally deranged, a presumption never extended to Islamic terrorists.

Hutson also writes about the highly interesting background of Lenio’s father, an extremely wealthy investment banker who had close ties to Dick and Betsy DeVos. Never heard of them? Neither had I, but Hutson explains how they used their fortune—they founded the Amway Corp.—to donate more than $200 million to right-wing causes.

I really do urge you all to read the report for yourself, and don’t miss the sidebar on urine. Yes, urine. When Lenio was arrested he had a couple of jugs of urine in his van. It is common knowledge that truckers, to save time, often pee in jugs and throw them out the window of their speeding trucks—a felony crime against common decency, in my book—but Lenio was not a trucker and his van was no truck.

So, why was it important? Because, as Hutson explains, “Urine has been used to make urea to serve as the main charge in homemade urea nitrate bombs in the U.S., as well as in Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq, and Pakistan. In the U.S., the best-known case of a urea nitrate bomb is the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. … One bomb-making manual, published by a self-described militia member a few weeks after White supremacist Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, calls urea nitrate IEDs ‘piss bombs.’”

Hutson is also featured in a documentary, “Hate in America: A Town on Fire,” about what is happening in Kalispell. The Montana Human Rights Network will host a screening of the documentary at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Helena on Friday evening. Here are details about that screening.

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