Kansas jury says Jewish center killer should be executed


A Kansas jury recommended on Tuesday that a white supremacist be sentenced to death for shooting and killing three people, including a boy, outside two Jewish centers last year.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 74, a former senior member of the Ku Klux Klan who has been representing himself in court, turned towards the jury after the verdict was read and said with a smile: “Thank you.”

He was found guilty last month of killing Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather, William Corporon, 69, outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, and Terri LaManno, 53, outside a Jewish retirement home, both in Overland Park, Kansas. The jury also convicted Cross of three counts of attempted murder for shooting at three other people.

Cross admitted during the trial that he committed the killings and said he had wanted to kill as many Jews as he could. None of those killed were Jewish.

He gave a Nazi salute to the jury, and declared “Death to the Jews” at the end of his closing statement before the jury retired to consider his sentence.

Cross, also known as Glenn Miller, said Jews control the media, financial institutions and the movie industry and he blamed Jewish women for backing a movement that led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973 to legalize abortion.

At the end of his closing statement on Tuesday, Cross dared jurors to give him the death penalty.

“I voluntarily sacrificed my freedom for my people,” Cross said. “Do you see fear in me? You see a proud white man.”

A hearing is set for Nov. 10 at which Johnson County District Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan will officially impose the sentence after considering any testimony and motions. Ryan said Cross has an automatic right to appeal.

Several relatives of the murder victims were seated in the front rows of the courtroom when the jury came in with the penalty verdict, but they showed little reaction. Later, on the steps of the courthouse, Corporon's son, Tony Corporon, read a statement as his mother, Melinda Corporon, stood by his side.

“Today we have witnessed justice in action,” Corporon said.

William LaManno, husband of Terri LaManno, said the system worked.

“I believe the criminal justice system worked effectively and the people from the state of Kansas have spoken loud and clear,” LaManno said. “Three peoples' lives were taken needlessly because of ignorance and unfounded hatred.”

White supremacist should die for 3 Kansas murders, prosecutor argues


A prosecutor urged a jury on Tuesday to give a Missouri white supremacist he called a “remorseless killer” a death sentence for murdering three people, including a boy, he thought were Jewish outside two Jewish centers in Kansas last year.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 74, was convicted Monday of capital murder for the April 2014 shooting spree that left a man and his grandson dead in a Jewish community center parking lot along with a woman visiting a nearby retirement home.

Cross, a former senior member of the Ku Klux Klan, said during his trial that he wanted to kill as many Jews as possible because he believes they are destroying the white gentile race. He said he did not learn until later that none of his victims were Jewish.

His sentencing phase began on Tuesday with prosecutors seeking to convince jurors the murders he committed were especially heinous.

“He was a proud and remorseless killer who only regrets he did not kill more people,” Chief Deputy Johnson County District Attorney Chris McMullin told jurors.

Cross, also known as Glenn Miller, spurned appointed attorneys and represented himself at trial. He told jurors he did not regret committing murder.

“It was righteous, it was honorable, it was moral,” Cross told jurors in his opening statement, speaking from a wheelchair he uses due to lung disease.

Cross was found guilty on Monday of killing high school student Reat Underwood, 14, and Underwood's grandfather, 69-year-old William Corporon, outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, as well as Terri LaManno, 53, outside a Jewish retirement home. Both are in Overland Park, Kansas.

He was also found guilty of attempted murder for shooting at three other people.

On Tuesday, Cross showed the jury what he said would be the first in a series of videos that reflect his views about Jews.

Prosecutors called only one witness on Tuesday – a detective who testified to documents showing that a musical talent competition was being held at the community center for teenagers on the day of the shootings. Corporon had driven Underwood there to participate in the event.

In laying the ground work for a death sentence, McMullin said the murders were “heinous, cruel and atrocious,” were done with premeditation and involved multiple innocent victims.

But Cross said he should receive life without parole, citing several factors, including his age and poor health.

Man sentenced to 20 years in suicide bomb plot at Kansas airport


A man who plotted a suicide car bomb attack at a Wichita, Kansas, airport in 2013 was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on Monday.

Terry Loewen, 60, had access to secure airport areas because of his work as an avionic technician, according to federal officials, who dubbed the bomb plot an attempted terrorist attack.

He was arrested trying to enter the ramp area of the airport known then as the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport with what he believed was a vehicle loaded with explosives. He had planned to detonate the explosives next to a terminal and die in the blast, according to federal officials. The airport was recently renamed the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport.

Loewen pleaded guilty to one count of attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction, and entered into a plea agreement reached with prosecutors calling for the 20-year prison sentence, followed by lifetime supervision.

The sentence required the approval of U.S. District Judge Monti Belot, which he granted at a court hearing on Monday.

Charges of attempted use of an explosive and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization were dropped under the agreement.

Prosecutors said at the time of his arrest that Loewen had proclaimed himself a Muslim and had talked of committing violent jihad on behalf of al Qaeda. Loewen said he was inspired by the teachings of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki and had downloaded thousands of pages of information on jihad, according to federal officials.

A joint terrorism task force had Loewen under investigation for months before his arrest. Loewen believed he was working with a member of a Yemen-based militant group and another individual in plotting the bombing, but both were undercover FBI agents, a criminal complaint said.

The agents helped Loewen with construction of the device, which was not active, the complaint said.

In September 2013, Loewen sent photos of airplanes on the ramp at the Wichita airport and commented that he could have “walked over there, shot both pilots … slapped some C4 on both fuel trucks and set them off before anyone even called TSA,” according to federal officials.

In a statement following his sentencing, Loewen apologized to his family.

“I do not ask for forgiveness because I deserve none,” he said.

White supremacist surprised his victims were not Jewish


Prosecutors in Kansas rested their case on Thursday in the murder trial of a white supremacist after playing a recorded call in which he expressed surprise the three people fatally shot outside two Jewish centers last year were not Jewish.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 74, a former senior member of the Ku Klux Klan who is representing himself, could be sentenced to death if convicted of murdering the three people in April 2014 in suburban Kansas City, Missouri. He also is charged with the attempted murder of three others. Cross has pleaded not guilty to all the charges but has said several times in court that he is the killer.

Before resting their case, prosecutors played a recording of jail telephone call in October 2014 in which Cross can be heard saying he took a swig of whiskey in his car in celebration moments after the shootings.

“I've never felt such exhilaration and overpowering joy,” Cross said on the recorded call.

Cross told jurors he made the call. While it is not clear who Cross was calling, he said in court on Thursday that he knew and wanted the call to be recorded and to be made public.

He says on the recording he was surprised non-Jews would be at the two centers but did not regret the killings.

“It makes them accomplices of the Jews,” Cross says on the recording. “They are against us.”

Cross is charged with fatally shooting Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather William Corporon, 69, outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, as well as Terri LaManno, 53, outside a Jewish retirement home in Overland Park, Kansas.

Cross, also known as Glenn Miller, is expected to begin presenting his defense on Friday, including testifying himself. Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan on Thursday told Cross he would not be allowed to present as evidence videos, books and articles that support his anti-Semitic views.

“You are depriving me my right to give my state of mind,” Cross told the judge.

Over three-plus days, prosecutors presented witnesses, video and forensic evidence they have said connects Cross to the killings.

Cross has asked few questions of the prosecution's witnesses and has been admonished repeatedly by Ryan for expressing his views instead of asking questions.

Kansas City shooter facing new charges


Frazier Glenn Miller, who has already been charged in the lethal April shootings of three people outside Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kan., was charged with trying to kill three others.

Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, is now facing three counts of attempted first-degree murder, the Kansas City Star reported, as well as three charges of aggravated assault and criminal discharge of a weapon.

Overland Park police arrested Miller shortly after the April 13 shootings and charged him with capital murder in the deaths of William Corporon, 69, and his grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, 14, outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, and of first-degree murder in the death of Terri LaManno, 53, who was outside the nearby Village Shalom senior living facility visiting her mother. None of the victims were Jewish.

Miller, 73, is a white supremacist and former grand dragon of a Ku Klux Klan chapter in North Carolina. Following his arrest, police found anti-Semitic material in his home, including copies of “Mein Kampf.”

‘And they weren’t even Jewish’: Thoughts on the Kansas JCC shooting


Federal law enforcement got it right when they announced they would prosecute Frazier Glenn Miller under the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA). Miller, the suspect who was arrested in connection with the April 13 shootings at a Jewish community center and a Jewish assisted-living facility in Overland Park, Kansas, is a self-proclaimed anti-Semite and white supremacist.  It is likely, based on the facts as reported in the media, that he went to both facilities with the intent to kill Jews. The fact that the three murder victims were not Jewish does not make this crime any less heinous, nor does it eliminate the possibility of a hate crime prosecution.   

And yet how many of us heard someone say, “And they weren’t even Jewish,” after news about the victims emerged?   

When the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) drafted its first hate-crime law more than 30 years ago, the point was to recognize that hate crimes are different from other crimes and warrant tougher sentences. Furthermore, in cases like this one, where there can be little doubt that Miller targeted his victims because he perceived them to be Jewish, hate-crime laws can and should be applied, even if the victims are not members of the group targeted.Why should the penalty be greater when someone commits a hate crime? These crimes have an emotional and psychological impact that is distinct from many other types of crime. In committing these crimes, perpetrators are sending a message to an entire community that says, “You are not safe; you are not protected.” This, in turn, makes members of the targeted communities fearful, angry and suspicious of other groups — and of the power structure that is supposed to protect them — which can damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities. 

It is also important to understand that the emphasis of the hate-crime laws is on the perpetrator’s perception of the victim’s status; the actual identity of the victim of a hate crime is wholly irrelevant. Take, for example, the tragedy of the Sikh man murdered in Arizona in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The gunman wanted to “kill a Muslim” in retaliation for the attacks, and shot and killed Balbir Singh Sodhi.  Sodhi was targeted at his workplace because he wore a beard and a turban in accordance with his Sikh faith. The gunman selected Sodhi because he perceived Sodhi to be Muslim, and he was convicted of first-degree murder with a hate-crime enhancement. Sodhi’s actual identity as a Sikh did not have any bearing on the case. 

Hate-crime statutes don’t create new crimes; there still has to be an underlying crime. Hate-crime statutes simply allow prosecutors to seek greater penalties if they can show the crime was motivated by bias against an actual or perceived protected class. This has been the ADL’s approach, and we are proud that 45 states and the District of Columbia have now enacted hate-crime laws based on or similar to the ADL model.

Prosecuting bias-motivated crimes under the hate-crime laws sends a message of reassurance to the targeted community, and that message is especially important in the aftermath of a crime that has been covered so extensively in the media. 

That may, in fact, be one of the reasons that federal authorities plan to use the HCPA.  In homicide cases like this one — unlike nonlethal crimes such as gay-bashing, a racially motivated mugging or a cemetery desecration — adding a hate-crime enhancement to the prosecution may not functionally increase the punishment meted out. But classifying the crime as a hate crime and prosecuting it under hate-crime laws underscores the message that bias-motivated violence is unacceptable. That message is critical, which is why the ADL routinely reaches out to government officials to seek statements denouncing such crimes. We are gratified by the reactions of our political leaders this month, including President Barack Obama and many other federal, state and local officials. 

In Kansas, the suspect had a prior affiliation with white supremacist ideology. He allegedly asked people if they were Jewish at the scenes of the crimes, was reported to have yelled “Heil Hitler” upon his arrest, and clearly targeted two Jewish community institutions. The fact that the victims of this unspeakable and heinous act of violence did not turn out to be Jewish is irrelevant. He should be prosecuted under hate-crime laws because it’s the clearest way to send a message back to the criminal and to others similarly inclined that says, “We stand with the community you targeted; it is you we will not tolerate.”


Amanda Susskind is the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Southwest Region.

Dwelling together: Parashat Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)


My father, originally from a small-town farm in Kansas, converted to Judaism when I was a young child. You can imagine that my seder table looks a lot like many American seder tables. Ours hosts a grand mixture of people — religiously, ethnically, socially and politically diverse. My congregational family at Temple Israel of Hollywood reflects the same. The Jewish communities I occupy are, at their core, wonderfully varied. 

And so, as I read anew these words of blessing uttered by the diviner Balaam in this week’s Torah portion, Balak, they struck a chord in me. Looking over their encampment, Balaam says about the Israelites, “As I see them from the mountain tops, Gaze on them from the heights: There is a people that dwells apart, Not reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). 

At first glance, I would be hard pressed to find a verse less descriptive of the Jewish communities I have come to know in my lifetime. The Jewish orbits I occupy intentionally intersect with the communities surrounding them and value interfaith, outreach and justice actions that seek to do so in deeper ways. The Jewish world I know is not one set apart or disconnected. And yet, I believe there is a deeper message in this verse that is meant to serve as a call to action for us today.

When I began my work as a congregational Jewish educator seven years ago, I understood the value of relationship to be the primary value informing my work. I saw it as my role and the role of the synagogue to help individuals and families find deeper connections — to connect deeper with their truest selves, with each other, with their tradition, with sacred text and with God. Seven years later, I believe that this focus on relationship requires more attention.

What Balaam once uttered as words of blessing, I read today as a timely call for communal self-reflection: “There is a people that dwells apart, Not reckoned among the nations.” Within our Jewish communities, within our families and among our friends are those who continue to feel outside, set apart and not included. Who stand aside. 

Beyond the value of relationship, I now speak of the value of inclusion. It is my mission to help invite inward those who stand on the fringes. We might have diversity within our Jewish communities, yet diversity and difference without the hard work that it takes to bind all of us together misses something crucial. 

I believe it is our collective responsibility to notice and respond to those among us who feel apart and outside, and help draw them in. Relationships are the starting point. Inclusion is the end goal.

In 2006, writing in a Christian context, Bishop Carlton Pearson released the controversial work “The Gospel of Inclusion.” In this book and in a series of teachings leading up to its publication, Pearson radically claimed that all people are saved, not just Christians. This belief ran so deeply contrary to his community’s belief that Pearson lost his church and many of his friends and connections. Despite the personal toll, Pearson saw this gospel as something he had to spread.

As I read Pearson’s work, I kept thinking to myself: I never thought of inclusion as being so radical a concept. But, of course it is. Balaam’s words of blessing/warning tell us all we need to know: Among the tents we erect and dwell in today, we have the power to isolate or include. The potential for exclusion lies not just in Jewish communities’ interactions with the larger world, but in our treatment of those within our own communities. 

There are too many within our midst who feel these very sentiments today. Those who sit next to us in shul, feeling lost or alone. Those who sense insurmountable hurdles keeping them from Torah or from God. Those who want to come in, but who have not yet figured out how to reach the center. I would guess that we have all known moments of exclusion and know firsthand the power of feeling included.

Indeed, “There is a people that dwells apart, Not reckoned among the nations.” But we are no longer in conflict with the Moabites and we have not just done battle with the Amorites. As we read these words of Torah this week, may we look inward and around our own communities. May we identify those in our lives (and it may very well be ourselves) who are seeking deeper connection, who are looking to be brought in, or who dwell yet outside. May we utter and accept words of invitation. 

Inclusion requires very real work: listening and responding, learning and teaching, noticing absences and reaching out, naming barriers and helping to overcome them. The work of inclusion is also deeply rewarding: shared meals and shared stories, tables expanded and hands extended. The work of inclusion is powerful, as it allows us to illuminate ourselves as present and illuminate others within a deeper presence. Even in Los Angeles, we can be neighbors.

Let this be a Shabbat of inclusion. For as we look anew from the mountaintops and gaze once again from the heights, we may yet see a new vision of Israel.


Rabbi Jocee Hudson is rabbi educator at Temple Israel of Hollywood (tioh.org), a Reform congregation.

ADL slams Western Wall replica as part of anti-abortion center


The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) described a plan by Evangelical pastors in Kansas to build a replica of the Western Wall as part of an anti-abortion shrine as “an outrageous affront to the Jewish people.”

The International Pro-Life Memorial & National Life Center is being planned by anti-abortion activists in Wichita, which is known for its anti-abortion activism, the Forward reported.

The model of the Western Wall will be a full-size, exact replica. The activists view the Western Wall as the embodiment of remembering Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and now want the wall to memorialize some 60 million aborted fetuses.

The wall replica will be fronted by 60 simple white crosses, each representing 1 million aborted fetuses, according to the center’s Web site.

A Web site for the center says the wall, which is referred to by another of its names, the Wailing Wall, will be “a place of repentance, mediation and healing.”

“The International Pro-Life Center will be a national and international focal point to connect and integrate a variety of services which have the goal of promoting, bring healing, and enhancing human life,” the Web site’s introduction says.

The ADL called the proposed center a perversion of Judaism’s holiest site.

“Over the years we have seen a number of anti-abortion groups compare abortion to the Holocaust, but this takes the misuse of Jewish symbolism and history to another level,” Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, said in a statement issued on July 16. “The Western Wall, this monumental symbol of Jewish grief and redemption, is being co-opted and distorted to promote an anti-abortion agenda and message. “Members of the pro-life movement are entitled to their opinions, but we wish they would not express them at the expense of Judaism’s holiest site and the Holocaust.”


Western Wall replica to be part of anti-abortion center


Evangelical pastors in Kansas are planning to build a replica of the Western Wall as part of an anti-abortion shrine.

The International Pro-Life Memorial and National Life Center is being planned by anti-abortion activists in Wichita, which is known for its anti-abortion activism.

The model of the Western Wall will be a full-size, exact replica. The activists view the Western Wall as the embodiment of remembering Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and now want the wall to memorialize some 60 million aborted fetuses.

The wall replica will be fronted by 60 simple white crosses, each representing 1 million aborted fetuses, according to the center’s website.

A website for the center says the wall, which is referred to by another of its names, the Wailing Wall, will be “a place of repentance, mediation, and healing.”

“The International Pro-life Center will be a national and international focal point to connect and integrate a variety of services which have the goal of promoting, bring healing, and enhancing human life,” the website introduction’s says.

The Anti-Defamation League in a statement called the proposed center “an outrageous affront to the Jewish people” and a perversion of Judaism’s holiest site.

“Over the years we have seen a number of anti-abortion groups compare abortion to the Holocaust, but this takes the misuse of Jewish symbolism and history to another level,” Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, said in a statement issued Monday. “The Western Wall, this monumental symbol of Jewish grief and redemption is being co-opted and distorted to promote an anti-abortion agenda and message.

“Members of the pro-life movement are entitled to their opinions, but we wish they would not express them at the expense of Judaism’s holiest site and the Holocaust.”

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