By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
The police followed the Acura to the Unitarian Church in Anaheim. "The church was hosting a hardcore punk concert, and there were numerous subjects standing around the parking lot when our subjects arrived," the report says. About an hour later, police saw Lamont leave the concert with another anarchist, Maxwell Lucas, who was driving the Acura. They followed the car to a Ralphs grocery store and waited while Lucas and Lamont went inside. When they came out 15 minutes later, one of the detectives thought he saw a bulge in Lamont's baggy pants that wasn't there when he went in the store.
From there, the officers followed the Acura north on the 57 freeway, then west along Imperial Highway. They briefly lost sight of the car but then spotted it at a gas station along La Habra Boulevard. The police report states that the detectives couldn't see if Lamont and Lucas were pumping gas into the car or something else. Either way, the police followed the car for several more minutes and concluded, "based on the path the subjects were taking, that they were going to the Moose Lodge, which was the scheduled location of the Aryan Nations party."
At that point, the police detectives contacted the La Habra Police Department and prepared to stop the Acura. But the car drove past the lodge. By the time police actually stopped the vehicle, the Acura had crossed out of La Habra and entered the Los Angeles County city of Whittier. Inside the car, the police found a one-gallon plastic jug full of gasoline and a "sponge soaked in gasoline that had two birthday-type candles stuck in it."
The detective who wrote the report added that the police "had received a newsletter put out by SKAA that had a picture of a similar device. The newsletter labeled the device a 'milk jug' incendiary device. The picture of the jug was hand-drawn and had the words 'BIG BOOM BRAND WATER' written across the front of the jug. The only difference between the drawing and the actual device was the drawing described the flammable material as kerosene rather than gasoline."
James Simmons, Lamont's defense attorney, says the traffic stop was illegal and that police failed to provide any explanation for the stop besides their suspicions about what Lamont was doing in La Habra. Anyway, he argued, the Hitler birthday party had been canceled, so there was nobody at the Moose Lodge for Lamont to harm.
"Matt and everyone else knew the Moose Lodge had denied [Aryan Nations] the right to hold the event there," Simmons asserted. "They followed him to a concert at a church, to a store, to a gas station. And as they went past where the event was to take place, they kept on going. The police were running out of reasons to stop him at that point. They had no reason other than curiosity to see what they were up to."
Simmons refused to offer an explanation for the gasoline jug and gas-soaked, candle-embedded sponges found in the Acura. But he asserted that such materials don't necessarily constitute a bomb. "Even if it was some kind of destructive device, what were they going to do with it?" he asked. "It was not a Molotov cocktail in a breakable container that, if you throw it, causes an explosion. There are laws against carrying gasoline in an unapproved container. They could have charged him with that, but they chose not to."
According to Simmons, he urged Lamont to plead no contest to possession of a destructive device so that he can challenge the traffic stop in his appeal. He thinks a jury trial would have been a mistake.
"The climate in this country is such that if you say 'terrorism' and 'bomb,' people think of Sept. 11 and Osama bin Laden," Simmons argued. "This just made us decide this is not the time to go to trial. It is truly unfortunate because, looking at the facts and the law, this was an illegal stop and an illegal search, but the judge refused to suppress the evidence from that search. Again, I think it's the political climate. Do you want to be the judge who sets an 'anarchist terrorist bomber' free in Orange County, America, at this time?"
Lamont refused several invitations to say where he was going in the Acura but was quick to point out that he was pulled over in Whittier—heading away from the Moose Lodge and La Habra. "When they pulled us over, the gang-unit detective said to me, 'We know who you are. You're from Long Beach, and you're on informal probation,'" a reference to Lamont's previous arrest stemming from an ill-fated May Day rally in Long Beach the year before.
"I told them, 'So what if we have a gallon of gas in our car,'" Lamont recalled. "'It's legal. Go ahead and arrest me.' I figured I'd be out of there in three days. I ended up being in jail for a year."