a) Allegation of posting of checkpoint
One allegation of racist behavior was the posting of a "Nigger check point" sign on a tree in the campground. The 1990 checkpoint sign was a piece of cardboard attached to a tree inside the campground. In black and red writing it read, "Nigger checkpoint," "Any niggers in that car?," and beneath some illegible writing, "17¢ lb." It also had a drawing of a black person's head surrounded by a red circle and a red slash across the head. A small hatchet had been struck through this portion of the sign. The sign appeared briefly in the Hayward videotape. An analysis of this videotape by the FBI's Engineering Section concluded that it is an unedited original video taken in 1990. [ / On July 21, 1995, an administrative subpoena was served on Hayward's initial counsel for the original of this videotape among other items relating to the Roundup. On July 27, 1995, Hayward provided a copy of this tape to us but refused to turn over the original, which he subsequently gave to Randall. The original was required to conduct any meaningful analysis of its authenticity. When we indicated that we intended to seek enforcement of the subpoena, Randall, apparently believing that we intended to send agents to physically wrest the tape from his hands, put out an alert on the Internet to fellow militia members and called for armed resistance to any efforts to obtain the video. Mike Kemp, another militia leader, was quoted in one newspaper article as saying that if the Department of Justice came to enforce the subpoena, there would be "warm bodies." We pressed for a peaceful resolution of this standoff, and on October 18, 1995, during his OIG interview, Hayward finally relinquished the videotape so that it could be analyzed by the FBI. The videotape was subjected to rigorous analysis by the FBI's Engineering Section. This analysis concluded that the video was an original recording with no apparent addition or removal of frames. The analysis also concluded that the portion of the videotape relating to the Roundup was consistent with being filmed in the same general time frame in 1990. ] From a copy of this videotape we made still photographs and showed them to interviewees. In this manner many witnesses confirmed that the video was taken in 1990, a fact also demonstrable by many of the T-shirts and caps worn by the participants appearing in the video. Finally, a number of witnesses verified that this particular sign was in fact posted at some point during the 1990 Roundup. Unfortunately, the video does not show when the sign was put up or taken down or by whom.
(i) Location of the sign
Hayward claimed that the sign was posted at the registration table. Numerous witnesses stated that they saw the sign approximately twenty yards into the camping area, to the left of the circular drive. One of the most significant witnesses on this point is a Department of Justice employee who stopped by the campground on either Thursday or Friday after finishing some business in Chattanooga. The DOJ employee was traveling with his supervisor, who wished to speak with someone known to be attending the Roundup. They were not official attendees of the Roundup. When they drove up to the campsite in mid- to late afternoon, this witness observed the sign posted on a tree to the left, inside the campground. People from local police departments in Boone County, Kentucky, [ / There were officers from two police departments in Boone County, Kentucky, at the 1990 Roundup: the Boone County Police Department and the Florence Police Department. ] viewed the photographs and identified a truck, a camper, and a tent as belonging to members of their group. They indicated that their wood pile was at the base of the tree where the sign was posted. [ / Several witnesses saw a small black statue, the type used for yard decoration, on the woodpile by the sign. A female river raft guide who was living in the campground at the time said she had had a small statue of "a little nigger boy" eating a watermelon outside her camper stolen during the 1990 Roundup. Some of the attendees had asked to borrow it as their "mascot," but she had refused. It was subsequently stolen in the middle of the night. It was not returned to her. It is likely that the statue on the wood pile was the guide's missing statue. ] They also identified on aerial photographs an area inside the campground and to the left as the location where they were camped and where the sign was posted. This area is consistent with the area shown on the video. We also found a tree in that area with a deep cut consistent with the type and size of mark that would have been made by the hatchet used to attach a portion of the sign to the tree. The sign would not have been visible to persons sitting at the registration desk because trees and brush block the line of sight. Persons at the upper end of the campground, near the beer truck, bathrooms, and bunkhouse, would have seen only the back of a piece of cardboard affixed to a tree.
(ii) The length of time the sign
How long the sign was posted is one measure of the extent to which organizers and participants tolerated racist activity at the Roundup. Over 50 of the 201 interviewees saw the sign. Their estimates of how long the sign was posted ranged from fifteen minutes to eight hours. Only Richard Hayward suggested that it was up overnight, much less for the entire Roundup.
The DOJ employee who happened to stop by the campground said the sign was taken down in the afternoon. When he and his supervisor arrived at the campground he spotted the sign as they drove to the right of the campground, around the grove of trees. They parked their car and got out to speak to someone. He estimated that they were at the site for less than half an hour. When they drove
away the sign was gone. This witness was not an attendee and had not been drinking, thus making his recollection particularly reliable.
At least half a dozen witnesses, including Rightmyer himself, recalled that Rightmyer returned to the campground that afternoon after playing golf, parked his car near the registration area, saw the sign inside the campground, and immediately yelled for someone to take it down. When someone suggested that others had gone off searching for who was responsible, Rightmyer told them to just take it down. The sign was removed from the tree within minutes of his arrival at the campground. [ / Numerous witnesses who had not actually seen Rightmyer order the sign taken down heard about it later and universally recalled that Rightmyer was upset and insisted that the sign come down immediately. ] Rightmyer did not recall who took the sign down or what was done with the sign thereafter.
Other witnesses said that they saw the sign shown in the Hayward video hanging on a tree late one night. Unlike the sign shown in the video, however, the sign was just stuck on a tree branch instead of solidly fastened to a tree trunk. They also recalled a Secret Service agent running down and yelling at the group to remove the sign. [ / One witness recalled the Secret Service agent yelling, "You guys have to take the sign down. People will think this is some kind of Klan rally!" ] A person threw it into the fire.
This report is consistent with the version of a man from Boone County who said he removed the sign and believed it was thrown into the fire. It is also consistent with the Secret Service agent's recollection that Rightmyer asked him to tell people to get the sign down. [ / The agent, however, recalled this happening at noon instead of at night. ] We also know that this particular Secret Service agent knew the Boone County group so he was an appropriate choice for this task. [ / He also served as president during the 1990 Roundup. ] One of the witnesses reported that he was sure it was late at night when he saw the sign because he was coming back from Grumpy's. Another person expressed certainty that this incident occurred at night because he had gone to the airport to pick up a friend and remembered seeing the sign after they got back. [ / He also recalled that the friend's luggage had been misplaced by the airline and someone from the airline, a black male, had driven out to drop off the luggage, saw the sign, dropped the bags, and ran. The witness says he later had a conversation with Rightmyer regarding the incident with the baggage person and the concern that they were going to be sued. Rightmyer stated he had no recollection of this conversation. ] This information was confirmed by the friend.
(iii) Responsibility for posting
The evidence gathered regarding the location of the sign and the duration it was posted strongly suggested, but did not definitively resolve, who was responsible for making and displaying it. Officers from the Boone County (BCPD) and the Florence Police Departments (FPD) in Kentucky admitted that the sign was posted in the vicinity of their campsite and that items in the still photographs from the Hayward video belonged to them.
One FPD officer named another FPD officer, now retired, as responsible for the sign. The person making this identification, however, was not at the campsite when the sign was posted. [ / He had gone fishing. When he left the campsite in the morning, the sign was not up. When he returned mid-day, it was posted. ] The identifying officer initially told us that the drawing of a likeness of an African American with a red circle around it and a red slash through it was similar to pictures previously drawn by the alleged signmaker. In a subsequent interview he denied having said this, claiming he must have been misunderstood. The alleged signmaker denied any responsibility for putting the sign up and professed no knowledge of who was responsible for the sign. [ / He also claimed his memory was not very good about these events. ] The first FPD officer also subsequently identified a BCPD officer as working with the second FPD officer to make and post the sign. This Boone County officer, also now retired, said the sign was already posted when he arrived at the campsite. He claimed not to know who put it up.
Significantly, however, this same group of officers from the Boone County and Florence police departments was responsible for the KKK skit performed later in the week. The officer who has been identified as the signmaker purchased the red and black markers and a sheet which were later used to make the Klansman outfit worn in the KKK skit by another officer from this group. The sign was drawn with red and black markers.
Several witnesses from outside this group were told that officers from Kentucky had erected the sign. [ / A woman who was living in the campground told us she did not see the sign. However, she described a campsite in a location consistent with the Kentucky group's site as being extremely "rowdy," and she would have friends escort her past this campsite at night because she was concerned about them. ] After the OIG investigation began, one witness heard that officers from Kentucky had admitted posting the sign. But several others, including the DOJ employee who stopped by the campground for a short time that afternoon, heard that people from Alabama had made the sign. And one witness recalls being informed during the Roundup that Alabama officers had admitted posting the sign.
One officer from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department who did not attend the 1990 Roundup heard in 1991 that Richard Hayward had put up the sign in 1990. As Hayward had made copies of the video and distributed them within the Fort Lauderdale police department, this officer may have been confused between Hayward merely seeing and videotaping the sign and his actually making and erecting it. This officer had no direct knowledge about the sign's origins. None of
the Fort Lauderdale officers who attended in 1990 and agreed to be interviewed, said that Hayward was responsible for the sign. [ / Significantly, however, several of them provided other significant information regarding Hayward's responsibility for subsequent racial acts. If Hayward had been responsible for the sign, we believe we would have learned this from other such witnesses who were present in 1990 and who had received copies of Hayward's video that same year. ]
(iv) OIG findings regarding posting
of 1990 checkpoint sign
The sign that appears in Hayward's video was posted during the 1990 Roundup. With respect to the location of the sign, Hayward's own video conclusively disproves his contention that it was placed by the registration table. Still photographs made of several frames from the Hayward video show the campsite surrounding the sign. From the pictures alone, it is clear that the tree where the sign hung is nowhere near the registration table. The registration table was outside the treeline. To one side were open fields; to the other, dense brush and trees. The site shown in the video is a mixture of trees and space consistent with the main campground area and partially up the left side of the campground. The site in the photographs is wholly inconsistent with the area around the registration desk.
Although we cannot definitively determine how long the sign was actually posted, all of the testimony and physical evidence, except Hayward's unsupported assertion, unequivocally establishes that the sign was not up overnight, let alone for the entire Roundup. This conclusion is consistent with the account that the sign was taken down in the afternoon, as well as the account of the sign being taken down in the evening. Both versions appeared credible, each supported by several witnesses who appeared to have very clear memories of the facts.
While they appear contradictory, these accounts may be reconciled. From the video, we know the sign was firmly attached to a tree at some point during the day. The witnesses who saw it taken down did not see what was done with the sign. It could have just been put away in a camper. That evening someone could have decided to pull out the sign and display it. This time, as the later witnesses suggest, it was just hanging on a branch. When Roundup organizers told them to take it down the second time, they threw it into the fire and destroyed it.
While we cannot conclusively resolve the inconsistency between these two central versions related to us, both conflict with Hayward's claim that the sign was up for the entire Roundup. Furthermore, many attendees did not see the sign at all. If it was displayed for the entire Roundup, more people would almost surely have seen it.
Finally, Hayward's own video appears to show scenes just prior to or during the Saturday night steak dinner and taken from near the top of the center campground pointing southeast, toward the campsite where the sign had been posted. No sign is visible on any of the trees in this segment of Hayward's video.
We found no one who purported to have seen the sign made or erected. The preponderance of the evidence, however, suggests that officers from the Boone County Police Department and the Florence Police Department were responsible for the sign.
Some people suggested that persons from Alabama were responsible for the sign, but these accounts may be explained by the fact that a group of local police officers from Alabama camped next to the Kentucky group. The sign was apparently hung where the two campsites abutted. Thus, some people, knowing that it was near the Alabama camp, may have just assumed they were responsible. No one could identify any particular group from Alabama, or any specific individuals, who were responsible for the sign.
One officer told the Birmingham Police Department's Internal Affairs department that officers from Ohio or Indiana were responsible for the sign. [ / The Birmingham Police Department compelled all of its current employees who had attended a Roundup to submit to interviews by its Internal Affairs department. We were permitted to sit in on some of those interviews and were orally briefed about others. ] As Boone County, Kentucky, borders Ohio at Cincinnati, the officers who attended may have heard that the Boone County officers were from near Cincinnati and assumed that meant Ohio. [ / In fact, the Cincinnati airport is located in Boone County, Kentucky. ] The Birmingham Police Department received no information, however, that anyone from Alabama bore any responsibility for the sign.
Unfortunately, Rightmyer made no effort at the time to investigate responsibility for the sign and took no action to discipline the perpetrators. [ / A number of witnesses thought that Rightmyer had asked the persons who put the sign up to leave. Rightmyer conceded, however, that he did not do so. Furthermore, if, as we suspect, the persons who put up the sign were from the same group as the persons in the KKK skit, not only did they not leave, they continued to engage in racist behavior. ] Nor did he ask the MOB members to identify or discipline these individuals. He claimed that he did not have to because he was certain that everyone in the campground, including those who made and posted the sign, knew he was not happy with it. Nevertheless, the sign appears to have been resurrected at one point. Even more significantly, the people most likely responsible for the sign performed a blatantly racist skit after this incident. Thus, it is clear that Rightmyer's failure to identify and sanction the culprits was a major error in judgment and created a climate in which there appeared to be no serious consequences for engaging in such conduct.