Former KKK Catholic Priest Plotted to Bomb NSA HQ

 

By Nate Thayer

Blessed are the Bomb Makers

Catholic Priest Plotted to Bomb NSA Headquarters

Church leaders knew of Ku Klux Klan terrorist activities when they ordained him

(This is part one of a four story series based on a three-month investigation of former KKK terrorist and now Catholic priest Father William Aitcheson)

Part I: The Klansman

 

 By Nate Thayer

November 30, 2017

A current Catholic priest and former Ku Klux Klan bomb maker built bombs smuggled into the headquarters of the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade army base in a plot to blow up the spy agency, an investigation has shown.

 

Father William Marx Aitcheson, a priest in the Catholic diocese of Arlington, Virginia was not just a foot soldier for the Ku Klux Klan engaged in misguided youthful indiscretions and isolated acts of bigotry as the public narrative forwarded by the Catholic Church and the priest suggests– he was a domestic terrorist who led extremist KKK cells plotting to launch a violent race war, a three-month investigation has revealed.

 

Aitcheson was stockpiling weapons, ammunition, bomb components, and other war material, manufacturing pipe bombs, training white supremacists in construction and use of explosives and guerrilla war tactics, distributing bombs and explosives to other Klan members that were then used in racial attacks, scheming to poison the Washington, D.C. water supply, bomb abortion clinics, black civil rights offices, and government installations, among other acts of terror against blacks, Jews, and the United States government, documents and interviews show.

A Reno Nevada police mug shot of Father William Aitcheson after his 1992 arrest at a medical clinic that provided abortion services

Both the Catholic diocese of Arlington, where Aitcheson has served as a priest from 1993 to the present, and the Reno, Nevada diocese that ordained him in 1988 said in statements in August they knew of the 62-year-old Aitcheson’s “past involvement with the KKK” when he was accepted as a seminarian 35 years ago in 1982 to prepare for a career as a priest, but Church leaders have refused to respond to numerous inquiries detailing new evidence of his  disturbing résumé as a violent, racial terrorist.

 

Instead, tight-lipped church officials have presented a selective narrative of sin, repentance, conversion, forgiveness, and redemption, minimizing the priests KKK activities while omitting the more serious evidence of Aitcheson’s Klan career as a violent domestic terrorist.

 

In the wake of racial violence in Charlottesville in August, an Arlington, Virginia diocesan statement said Aitcheson “saw the opportunity to tell his story in the hopes that others would see the possibility of conversion and repentance.”

At the time, the Catholic diocese of Arlington failed to disclose that their acknowledgment was a pre-emptive public relations campaign, approved by both the Bishop of Arlington and Aitcheson after they were contacted by a reporter who was planning to publish the decades long secret of Father Aitcheson’s KKK past known by the church leadership but never revealed to either parishioners or the public.

 

“When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on,” wrote Fr. Aitcheson on August 21 in the official diocese newsletter, “It’s hard to believe that was me.”

 

But Aitcheson’s ambiguous phrase “and so on” evaded addressing a much more sinister portrait of his résumé as a violent racial terrorist for the Ku Klux Klan.

A FBI document listing some of the criminal charges against Aitcheson in 1977 after his arrest in Maryland

FBI document on the investigation of Aitcheson which led to his arrest on federal and state charges in 1977

When he was arrested on March 2, 1977 at his parent’s farm in Ellicott City, Maryland, law enforcement found a cache of bomb making materials and an arsenal of weapons in his bedroom and basement. Included in the seizure was nine pounds of black powder explosives, 200 feet of safety fuses, pipes and end caps to build pipe bombs, 14 firearms, other components for explosive devices, more than 4,500 rounds of ammunition for a military Armalite AR-180 semi-automatic weapon, diagrams and manuals to construct homemade bombs, literature on “how to carry out guerrilla activities and terrorist activities”, pamphlets authored by Aitcheson he titled “How to Kill”, military flak jackets, and “a year’s supply” of survival food, according to court documents and law enforcement sources directly involved in the investigation.

 

But the most stark revelation to emerge from a three-month investigation are previously unknown details of Aitcheson’s plot to blow up “communication facilities” and the “power grid system” at the top-secret NSA headquarters located within Ft George Meade near Washington, D.C.

 

“Aitcheson was fanatical about explosives,” according to Frank Rauschenberg, a retired Maryland state fire marshal who went undercover into Aitcheson’s Klan group which resulted in his arrest in March 1977. “He stated on several occasions that bombs were an obsession with him, that he just loved the use of explosives.” When Aitcheson told Rauschenberg he “dreamed of the fire, that the world would be engulfed in flames” he “was very, very excited. He was sort of in an euphoria.”

 

 

In an October 1981 letter to a federal judge in a civil suit against Aitcheson, the priest claimed “before my arrest, I had severed my activities with the KKK,” but a body of newly uncovered documents suggests that rather than leaving the Klan prior to his arrest, he was escalating his plans for launching terrorist attacks to spark a race war, according to court records and law enforcement testimony. In the weeks before Aitcheson’s March 2, 1977 arrest, his plotting for the coming race war “increased intensively,” said Rauschenberg.

 

“Aitcheson formulated plans in February 1977 to conduct attacks on military installations and other sites in the greater Washington area—including communications centers, electric companies, Fort Meade and its power station. He also discussed using explosives against abortion centers and NAACP offices in Prince George’s County, Maryland and Washington D.C. and putting toxic chemicals into the District of Columbia water supply,” a July 1981 federal court document stated.

 

“At a February 16, 1977 meeting, Aitcheson said he would have to blow up some federal installations and he asked the fire marshal to get him some poisonous chemicals to put in the DC water supply and to check on communications centers to being blown up,” said Prince George’s county assistant district attorney Stephen Orenstein on August 10, 1977. “On February 22, 1977, the defendant indicated he would use nails as a filler for pipe bombs” said Orenstein who referred to Aitcheson’s “obsession with bombs and bomb making.”

Copies of more than 1000 pages of court records ordered destroyed in routine purging of government paper documents in 1994 were found in legal files from Aitcheson’s hate crimes 35 years ago—the victims of which, until last week, Aitcheson had still never apologized or paid defaulted court ordered judgments since Aitcheson disappeared into the priesthood.

 

The Bomb Maker

 

Rauschenberg met Aitcheson in April 1976 at the first meeting of the Klan Beret, an extremist terror cell tasked with carrying out illegal acts of violence for the Maryland Independent Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “We met with six other people for the purpose to organize the Klan Beret,” Rauschenberg said.

 

“I had close contact with Aitcheson because we both participated in training exercises for the Klan Berets. The training exercises consisted of putting together explosive devices and guerrilla practices and maneuvers” on a rural farm in Maryland.

 

Aitcheson constructed a pipe bomb “in my presence and the presence of other members of the Klan Beret. He also detonated the pipe bomb,” Rauschenberg testified in a March 1977 court bond hearing. The bombs were “to be used in the upcoming revolution directed towards black people.”

 

In the summer of 1976, Aitcheson was a featured speaker at large Klan rallies held on Saturday nights on the farm bringing members from neighboring Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

 

“We’re going to have a little Bolshevik America unless we keep our powder dry, clean our weapons, and get ready to go into the streets,” Aitcheson exhorted fellow Klansmen in a fiery speech recorded in declassified FBI documents. “I tell you something. You got this robe, but it don’t mean a thing unless you’ve got something to back it up. I mean a good weapon, a rifle, a good pistol. And ammunition — thousands of rounds, not hundreds,” he said.

 

But in the fall of 1976, the Maryland Klan group fractured and by November 1976 Aitcheson left and promptly helped form an even more extremist Klan faction that advocated for a violent race war, according to law enforcement and Klan sources.

 

“He’s not (a member of the Klan Beret) now. He has been banished. We had a slight split awhile back — November to be exact,” a Maryland Independent Knights of the Ku Klux Klan leader, Will Minton, said of Aitcheson in an early 1977 interview with Patsy Sims, author of a respected book “The Klan.”

By January 1977, Aitcheson was the Exalted Cyclops—or local leader–of a new organization of Klansmen he named the Robert E. Lee Lodge Klan Unit #2, affiliated with another national Klan faction, the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. According to law enforcement, KKK sources, and FBI documents, Aitcheson was in charge of 12 charter members located in Howard County, Maryland near the NSA headquarters.

 

NSA BOMB PLOT

 

Aitcheson’s new KKK cell included two active duty marines who came with him from the “Klan Berets” who Aitcheson had trained in use of explosives. Undercover Maryland law enforcement officer Rauschenberg also infiltrated the Robert E. Lodge Klan Unit # 2 in January 1977.

 

Rauschenberg remembers that “Aitcheson and the two marines stationed at NSA Ft Meade had close ties” and “participated in training” conducted by Aitcheson in “construction and use of pipe bombs and explosives.”

 

The two marines were attached to an elite marine unit, the Marine Barracks—Ft George Meade Security Detachment responsible for security at headquarters of the National Security Agency. The marines that comprised the unit all were required to have top-secret security clearances.

 

The marines were subordinate to KKK Exalted Cyclops Aitcheson, lived at the barracks located at NSA headquarters, and had wide access to some of the most secretive intelligence facilities of the U.S. government. At the time, the very existence of the National Security Agency was classified as top-secret, earning it the moniker “No Such Agency.” Today, the budget of the NSA remains a classified secret and is hidden within the larger budget of the Department of Defense, although NSA is recognized as having the largest budget of any agency of the U.S. federal government.

 

Marine Barracks—Ft. George Meade was comprised Companies “A” and “B” “responsible for 75 interior and exterior posts at the (NSA) Ft. Meade and Friendship Annex (FANX) complexes, as well as mobile patrols,” according to 2014 declassified NSA documents.

 

In early 1977, Aitcheson began plans to bomb “communication” and “power grid” facilities at the National Security Agency, according to court documents and transcripts of testimony, interviews with Maryland and other law enforcement, and former members of the U.S. Marine Corps security detachment at Ft. Meade.

 

“We had access to the entire NSA facility. If we wanted to bring explosives onto the base we easily could have done so,” recalled Thomas Pristow, a former Marine who was a member of the NSA headquarters marine security detachment at the time and lived in the marine barracks with the KKK marines in 1977. “I remember that one Marine who served with me was there one morning and then his bunk was empty that night. We heard that he was involved in the Ku Klux Klan. We never saw him again. He just disappeared.” Pristow confirmed that all marines attached to the security detachment had top-secret clearance at the time.

 

At the time, Aitcheson was constructing pipe bombs and stockpiling explosives and components in his basement on his parents farm in nearby Howard County, Maryland. He supplied the pipe bombs to the Marine guards in the plot to bomb the spy agency, according to Maryland and federal law enforcement.

 

In February 1977 the marines smuggled at least one pipe bomb manufactured by Aitcheson and a quantity of black powder explosives through the NSA security system into the marine barracks located next to the NSA main HQ complex, Operations Center #1.

William Latham 3rd, a marine platoon sergeant with top-secret security clearance supervising 75 marines assigned to provide security at the National Security Agency between 1976 – 1978, recalled an incident in early 1977 just prior to Aitcheson’s arrest. “At dusk one night, there was a huge explosion at a microwave tower right next to a power plant behind our marine barracks. It was so bright it felt like somebody dropped the sun in the parking lot,” recalled Latham. “It was a very big thing. Sirens went off. Everybody locked and loaded and in shorts and t-shirts, all with rifles we deployed to secure the NSA facility. ‘Here is a rifle! Go! Go! Go!! Here is ammo! If anyone gets near that fence, shoot them!'” he recalled the marine commanders ordering. “Immediately many helicopters with spotlights appeared. They tried to say it was a transformer, but this was no transformer exploding. After that, they changed the whole security protocol.”

 

“Everything went black. The entire NSA, the marine barracks–all the buildings in the area lost all power,” recalled Latham.

“In February of this year (1977), I met with Mr. Aitcheson (and) he himself stated that we were going to have to begin our terrorist and sabotage acts and begin the revolution,” Rauschenberg testified in court later in 1977. “He mentioned as to how vulnerable Ft. Meade was in regards to knocking out the power source.”

There is no evidence the explosion next to the marine barracks at the power generating facility and microwave communication tower next to the marine barracks was connected to the two marines who within weeks were found with a home-made explosive devices in their locker and raw black powder explosives in a vehicle adjacent to the site of the explosion.

But several law enforcement officials referred to Aitcheson’s plans to target the NSA power generating facilities at the time.

“At a February 16, 1977 meeting, Aitcheson said he would have to blow up some federal installations and he asked the fire marshal to get him some poisonous chemicals to put in the DC water supply and to check on communications centers to being blown up,” said Prince George’s county assistant district attorney Stephen Orenstein on August 10, 1977. “On February 22, 1977, the defendant indicated he would use nails as a filler for pipe bombs” and referred to Aitcheson’s “obsession with bombs and bomb making.”

While Aitcheson was prosecuted in Maryland and federal civilian courts on other charges, the investigation into the bomb plot at the NSA headquarters at the Ft. George Meade army base was delegated to the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) now known as NCIS.

Photograph distributed by the Catholic diocese of Arlington, Virginia of priest and former Klan leader William Aitcheson

“NCIS took charge of the investigation of the pipe bomb at NSA since it involved marines and Ft. Meade is federal jurisdiction,” said Rauschenberg. “I remember NCIS investigators deposed me for four hours.”

 

On March 2, 1977, the same day Aitcheson’s house in Howard County was raided at dawn by joint law enforcement agencies, military and federal law enforcement investigators questioned the two marines and found a pipe bomb manufactured by Aitcheson in the personal locker of one at the marine barracks at NSA headquarters. Law enforcement also found raw black powder explosives in his car parked inside Fort Meade.

 

“The pipe bombs were found in the locker of the marine in his barracks,” said Rauschenberg. “Their attention was focused on the power grid at Ft. Meade.”

 

Maryland State Police, military investigators, and others confirmed there was a plot to bomb NSA communications facilities and a power generating plant at Ft Meade.

On March 3, 1977, the day after Aitcheson was arrested on federal and state charges of making death threats, burning crosses on the properties of Jewish religious institutions and black families, and manufacturing illegal explosives, an internal FBI document refers to explosives confiscated from a marine guard who was a member of the Robert E. Lee Lodge Ku Klux Klan Klavern headed by now Catholic priest Father William Aitcheson. “Charges are also being sought against Aitcheson in connection…with a pipe bomb found in possession of (name redacted).”

 

A March 17, 1977 FBI document refers to “Loose leaf (paper) with writing on front and reverse beginning with the words ‘Instructions for building a pipe bomb—anti personnel’” confiscated from Aitcheson and said “The Maryland State Police has been conducting an investigation…into numerous illegal acts which they suspect were being committed by members of the Robert E. Lee Klavern of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. This Klavern is located in Howard County, Maryland and is headed by William Marx Aitcheson who is described as the Exalted Cyclops.”

 

The same FBI document read Aitcheson “has a propensity for violence” and “Aitcheson has attempted on several occasions to recruit members to commit criminal acts.”

 

In April 1977, a Prince George’s county, Maryland grand jury summoned three members of Aitcheson’s Klan group: the Marine guard stationed at Ft. Meade; an unidentified Baltimore prison guard; and the “grand wizard” — or state leader — of Aitcheson’s new Klan group who owned an auto repair shop in rural Clarksburg, in Montgomery County Maryland.

 

Maryland State Police Spokesman Bill Clark said at the time that a Prince George’s County grand jury “summoned a marine guard at Ft. Meade.”

 

No civilian charges were ever brought against the marines, but the marines were removed from their duties. It is unclear whether they faced a military judicial process or were discharged from active duty.

 

“The military and the NSA may not have wanted the negative publicity of such a sensitive security breach,” said one retired Naval Investigative Service official and former marine familiar with the incident. “In 1977 the very existence of the NSA was classified as top-secret. The joke was NSA stood for No Such Agency.”

 

“Remember you can’t bring a pipe bomb into an agency that does not exist.”

 

“They would have dealt with it quietly,” said another career NIS agent. “Remember you can’t bring a pipe bomb into an agency that does not exist.”

 

National Security Agency chief spokesman Michael “Mike” T. Halbig responded to a request for comment saying the incident is “something you need to address with the Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies that investigated the allegations in your email, and the Marines.”

At the time of Aitcheson’s arrest, Maryland State Police spokesman Bill Clark said

“It appears that this particular group was just getting organized and developing a scheme to place explosives and five bombs at specific locations.” The five locations were the Ft Meade NSA ‘communications facility’ and a power plant; the NAACP office in Prince George’s County; medical facilities that provided abortion services in Washington, D.C. and nearby Maryland; and a radio station.

 

Law enforcement also detailed a plan by Aitcheson to poison the water supplies of Washington, D.C. and suburban Prince George’s county, Maryland “with toxic chemicals.”

 

“In February 1977, Aitcheson discussed with Inspector Rauschenberg his plans to ‘conduct attacks’ on military installations and other sites, including Ft. Meade and its power station, the use of explosives against abortion centers and NAACP offices in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. He also proposed putting toxic chemicals into the District of Columbia water supply during the upcoming ‘revolution’. Aitcheson believed that the ‘revolution,’ or armed struggle against blacks, Jews and others would take place ‘within a year’s time’ of the organization of the Klan Beret,’” wrote Stephen Fennell, an attorney for three of Aitcheson’s victims in 1976 and 1977, in a document to federal judge Frank Kaufman in 1981. “Aitcheson was a key member of a paramilitary splinter group of the Klan … fashioned after the U.S. Army Green Berets, declared its purposes to be military training and the use of light arms, bombs, fire bombs and guerrilla tactics for the coming ‘revolution’ against blacks and others,” said Fennell.

 

Then Carroll County, Maryland State attorney Thomas Hickman, who prosecuted Aitcheson, called him a “master of deceit” who was “planning a terrorist campaign” when he was arrested. At a court hearing to determine Aitcheson’s bail shortly after he was arrested, Hickman told a Carroll County judge Aitcheson had “gone off the deep end.”

Then Bill Aitcheson emerging from federal court in 1977 where he plead guilty to sending death threats to the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr

“He’s ready for the revolution,” Hickman said in March 1977.

 

And such talk were not fantasies for Aitcheson. Documents and testimony show that he repeatedly followed through with deeds.

 

In a bond hearing after his March 1977 arrest, Hickman argued that Aitcheson “is a very dangerous man” and had proven to be “a man of his word. ‘I will make you a bomb’—and he made him a bomb. The bomb worked. ‘Here’s directions on how to make a bomb’ — and those directions did in fact work. ‘A bomb of mine was used to blow up a car in Dundalk.’ That occurred. ‘I intend to burn a cross on the lawn of a black family in College Park Woods in Prince George’s County.’ He did so.”

 

Bombs manufactured by Aitcheson were used to blow up targeted vehicles of black families in Maryland, according to Maryland law enforcement. Aitcheson “constructed a pipe bomb for a friend of his who was a member of the Knights of the KKK who resides in Dundalk … to use on a vehicle of a black family,” Rauschenberg told a court in 1977. “The Maryland State Police intelligence division confirmed that an explosion did take place in Dundalk resulting in damage to an automobile.”

 

The friend who Aitcheson “constructed a pipe bomb for” was Gerald Allen. At the time, Allen was one of the eight members of the special action KKK cell, the Klan Beret, who Aitcheson trained in the construction, detonation, and use of explosive devices in the summer of 1976.

 

Contacted Sept. 17, the now 58-year old Allen acknowledged having worked with Aitcheson in the KKK, but declined to talk about the criminal charges.

 

“I don’t want to talk about that. It was a long time ago,” he said.

 

In October 1978, Gerald Allen and two other close KKK associates of Aitcheson were convicted of plotting to bomb a Jewish synagogue and the home of a black Congressman. Allen was sentenced to eight and half years in prison.

 

On February 28, 1977, the University of Maryland newspaper published a letter to the editor written by Aitcheson complaining of “the complete loss of individuality” of students who were “no longer individual human beings with names, but rather a faceless collective of nameless numbers.” He concluded, “Our socialist security numbers are our real names. Time and time again, I have been told, ‘you’re just a number on this campus.’ Well, I have got news for you robots and bureaucrats. I am not a number. I am an individual with a name.”

 

Two days later, in the pre-dawn hours of March 2, 1977, a joint law enforcement team of local, state, and federal investigators swooped down on Aitcheson’s parent’s farm in Clarksville, Maryland, and arrested the then 22-year old.

 

In 1976 and 1977, there were 17 cross burnings in Prince George’s and Howard counties and Aitcheson was eventually charged with committing seven of them.

 

On March 14, 1976, he burned a KKK cross at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, less than a thousand feet from the childhood home he grew up in. On March 26, 1976, Aitcheson burned a KKK cross at the nearby Beth Torah Synagogue in Prince George’s County, Maryland. On April 9, 1976, he burned a KKK cross at a home of a family in University Park, Maryland.

A threatening letter sent to Coretta Scott King by now Catholic priest William Aitcheson in February 1976 who was at the time a leader of the Ku Klux Klan

Weeks before, on February 20, 1976, Aitcheson sent death threats by mail to Coretta Scott King, the widow of the slain civil rights icon, warning her that if she showed up to a scheduled speaking engagement on the University of Maryland campus in April she would be killed. On the night of April 22, 1976, the day Coretta Scott King was scheduled to speak, Aitcheson burned a KKK cross at the University of Maryland Adult Education Center where she was to appear. Shortly before her speech, bomb threats were called into the venue.

A death threat mailed to Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King in February 1976 by Catholic priest William Marx Aitcheson while he was a leader of a Maryland Ku Klux Klan group

On August 14, 1976, a cross was burned near a footbridge in Columbia, Maryland in Howard County. On September 3, 1976, Aitcheson burned a cross at the Hillel Foundation Jewish community center on the University of Maryland campus in College Park. On January 30, 1977, Aitcheson burned the cross on the lawn of the black Butler family in College Park, Maryland.

 

“The next war is going to be a big one and it’s going to last a long time. The only way this country can ever revive its laws, can ever revive the laws of God, is going to be through violence,” Aitcheson exhorted fellow Klansmen in a speech in March 1976 at a Klan rally recorded by FBI investigators and recounted in Sims’ book.

 

Father William Aitcheson was convicted on federal and state hate related crimes in late 1977 and sentenced to 60 days in a federal prison hospital for “psychiatric evaluation.

 

Weeks after his release, Aitcheson began a journey ushered through Catholic Church institutions and dioceses into the priesthood, where he has served more than a dozen catholic parishes in Nevada and Virginia for the last 35 years.

 

“At the time the then Mr. Aitcheson was applying to the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas, he admitted his past involvement with the KKK and talked about his conversion experience. Those persons in charge at the time, acknowledging that conversion, accepted him into the seminary,” said a Reno diocese official statement in August.

 

Also in August, officials at the Catholic Diocese of Arlington said that when Aitcheson came to the diocese more than 24 years ago, they “learned of his past as well as his sincere conversion of heart.”

 

In Aitcheson’s statement published in the Arlington diocesan newsletter in August, he wrote, “I would have preferred to forget…our actions have consequences and while I firmly believe God forgave me — as he forgives anyone who repents and asks for forgiveness — forgetting what I did would be a mistake,” he wrote. “God forgives everyone who truly repents.”

 

But many question Aitcheson’s conversation and are dismissive of any claims of repentance, his victims adamant he has made no effort to apologize or seek forgiveness from his victims. “There has been no contrition or repentance at all. We have never heard anything from him,” said Rabbi Mendel Abrams, now in his 80’s, in an interview. Rabbi Abrams headed the Beth Torah synagogue in Hyattsville, Maryland that Aitcheson targeted with a burning Klan cross in March 1976. “Even now, up to this day 40 years later, we have heard nothing. Neither he nor the church has made any effort to contact us. I guess the church is taking care of its own.”

 

Abrams and his wife recall that the day after the cross burning at their synagogue, someone shot a bullet through a window at their home in nearby College Park, Maryland. “We were really shocked by the events. We were about to leave on vacation the next day and leave our three children with a babysitter. We were afraid to go on vacation and leave our children. It was a very scary, eerie feeling. We have never forgotten what happened”

 

In a letter from Aitcheson to a federal Judge seeking leniency in October 1981, Aitcheson objected to civil actions taken against him by Rabbi Abrams and other victims of his cross burnings.

 

Aitcheson said the civil suit seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the black family and Jewish religious organizations that Aitcheson had been convicted of targeting with nighttime cross burnings were an unfair burden on him. “This continued litigation has caused my family and me great concern, not allowing us to finally see an end to the suffering and humiliation we have endured,” he wrote the court. “I would hope that awarding of the judgment would satisfy the Plaintiff’s desire for retribution. Further involvement and penalty would only serve to heighten dispair (sic) and encourage bitterness.”

 

Barbara Butler, at whose house Aitcheson placed a Ku Klux Klan wooden cross wrapped in burlap and soaked in diesel fuel and set alight on the night of January 30, 1977, had a different perspective. “Most of all, I have a sense of outrage that someone like William Aitcheson could subject me and my family to all the suffering we have endured over the years and think nothing of it,” she said in a deposition presented to the same court in 1981. “My husband and I came to the house looking for a new start in life. Mr. Aitcheson has taken that away from us, and, as long as we live, we will never forget the message of racism he wrote all over our lives.”

 

 

When Aitcheson was ordered to pay the family $23,000 in 1981, Aitcheson disappeared into Catholic Church institutions and the priesthood and never paid the court ordered judgment, reached out to, or apologized directly to the family, the Butler’s said after Aitcheson’s Klan past became public in August.

 

“It has been years and we have never heard one word or anything,” said Philip Butler in September. “To come to see that he was a priest, I didn’t know what to say.”

 

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Barbara Butler said in August after Aitcheson’s Klan past was made public. “But you did know what you did . . . you changed our lives a lot.”

 

“Aitcheson was aware that Mrs. Butler belonged to the NAACP. He was also aware that the Butler family had recently purchased their home in a predominantly white neighborhood. He expressed his desire to seek revenge against the Butler family by burning a cross on their lawn,” said Rauschenberg, the undercover Maryland law enforcement agent who infiltrated Aitcheson’s Klan groups. “Aitcheson also contemplated fire bombing the Butler residence using a pipe bomb at the foot of the door of the black family’s home and a Molotov cocktail”

 

In an interview in November, the Butler family lawyer, Ted Williams, said that there had been no attempt to reach out to the Butler’s in the months since Father Aitcheson’s Klan involvement went public. “The Butlers have heard nothing from the church or Aitcheson since then,” he said.

 

But last week, sparked by the publicity spotlight in August, the Butler’s and Aitcheson’s attorney came to an agreement.

 

On September 8, two checks totaling $23,000 were issued by Dare’s law firm and mailed to the Butler family lawyer using Church funds, according to sources close to the case, but the checks were returned “as they didn’t include interest” from the April 1982 civil court judgment, according to Ted Williams, the Butler family lawyer. Interest from the unpaid judgment ordered by the court in April 1982 amounts to somewhere between $55,636.93 and $90,822.13, depending on calculations.

 

Last week, 40 years after Aitcheson fled from his legal obligations into the priesthood, the church and Aitcheson came to a legal settlement with the Butler family. “We have reached an agreement with the Butler family that has been signed, implemented, and finalized,” said Aitcheson’s attorney Mark Dare on November 28. “There is no confidentiality agreement.”

 

Dare said he is “representing only Father Aitcheson” and not the Catholic Church, but declined to say whose funds were used to pay the Butler family for the delinquent court ordered judgments. “The Firm represents employers,” reads the IslerDare website, and is “dedicated exclusively to the representation of management in all aspects of labor, employment and employee benefits law.”

 

 

The Catholic diocese of Arlington, Virginia has refused to respond for comment to more than 30 written inquiries detailing the new revelations of Father Aitcheson’s past as a racial terrorist. “We’ve offered everything we can at this point,” said Billy Atwell, Chief Communication Officer for the diocese.

 

“The Catholic Church will walk with anyone to help bring them closer to God,” said Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge.

 

Another Arlington diocese statement on the same day in August he and the Church made their only public acknowledgment of his KKK affiliation said he asked to “temporarily step away from public ministry, for the well-being of the Church and parish community, and the request was approved. He will not be available for interviews.”

 

[Nate Thayer is a Washington, D.C. based freelance investigative journalist who has a current focus on U.S. political extremist groups. During his 30-year career, mostly as a foreign correspondent, Thayer has been the recipient of numerous awards including Outstanding International Investigative Reporter of the Year by the Center for Public Integrity and the Francis Frost Wood Courage in Journalism Award for Ethics in Journalism, among others. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the Wall Street Journal for his reporting on Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot in the two decades after the Cambodian leader presided over the “Killing Fields” resulting in the deaths of over 1.8 million of his countrymen.]

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