BOISE, Idaho - An eight-woman, four-man jury was selected yesterday to hear Justice Department charges that three white supremacists from northern Idaho planned to bomb a gay nightclub in Seattle last spring.
It took all day to select the panel plus two alternates from a pool of 60 prospective jurors summoned to a trial that could take two to four weeks before U.S. District Judge Harold Ryan.
Robert J. Winslow, Procter James Baker and Stephen E. Nelson are charged with planning to bomb the Neighbours Disco in Seattle, described in court papers as a tavern frequented by homosexuals and minorities.
Winslow and Nelson were arrested in a van in Seattle and officers said they had firearms and several bombs.
The key government witness, former wrestler Rico Valentino, provided the government with recordings of what investigators say were conversations about plans to bomb the tavern.
The government says the defendants have connections with the northern Idaho white supremacy movement and at least one lived in the compound of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian-Aryan Nations at Hayden Lake.
When Ryan told jurors the trial involved white supremacists, several prospective jurors were excused when they said they could not be impartial in such a case.
Another woman was dismissed when she said she was raised by homosexuals and lesbians.
Ryan set opening statements for today.
Defense lawyer Douglas VanderBoegh warned the prospective jurors they would hear offensive language from the tapes made by Valentino. But he hinted the defense would argue the statements alone were not illegal.
``Is there anybody on this jury who hasn't heard about the First Amendment right to free speech? The freedom to talk about violence - talk about it?'' he asked. Nobody responded.
``All we are asking for is a panel that will give our defendants a fair shake,'' said another defense lawyer, Gar Hackney.
Documents on file in the case indicate the prosecution's case will center on Valentino.
Documents indicate he was paid nearly $100,000 by the FBI after he infiltrated the Aryan Nations organization in 1987. Investigators say Valentino tipped them off to the alleged bombing plot.
Hidden investigators took pictures which allegedly show some of the defendants setting off what prosecutors contend were test explosions of pipe bombs in a northern Idaho forest. Prosecutors also plan to play several hours of tapes made in Valentino's van as he, Winslow and Nelson traveled from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to Seattle.
In testimony at a pretrial hearing Monday, Nelson claimed there is a gap of as much as five minutes in the government's tapes. During that period, he said, he made it clear he and Winslow had no criminal intentions on the trip to Seattle.
Nelson said the trip was intended to make a recording and pass out white supremacist literature to skinheads in the Seattle area.