Rye, New Mexico, is a city of approximately half a million people. The city has experienced serious economic problems ever since a big computer chip manufacturer that employed thousands relocated to California in 2000. Since then, the city has experienced an increase in unemployment, business failures, crime and racial tension.
On November 13, 2001, Leon Johnson, an African American, his White girlfriend, Marilyn Overton, and one of their friends, all residents of the City of Rye, drove to Johnson’s house from a party they had all attended. Frankie Sherwood, the driver of the vehicle, stopped the car in front of Johnson’s home. Johnson and Overton exited the vehicle but remained near the car, chatting with Sherwood.
Earlier that same evening, Teri/Terry Brewster, president of East Side White Pride (“ESWP”), a local Skinhead group, and some members of ESWP drove to a Skinhead club in downtown Rye to distribute White supremacy literature provided by Andie/Andy Barrett, a member of the White Aryan Separatist Party (“WASP”), who was visiting from Colorado. Both ESWP and WASP are dedicated to the supremacy of the White race, and membership is limited to White persons of non-Jewish ancestry.
As Brewster, Barrett and the other members of ESWP left the club, they headed back to their own neighborhood on the east side of the river. After stopping at a mini-mart to pick up some beer, they headed down Belmont Street to drop Barrett at the motel where s/he was staying. After they let her/him out of the car, they continued cruising on Belmont, and after turning onto on a side street, came upon Johnson, Overton and Sherwood. Harsh words were exchanged and an altercation ensued. As a result of the incident, Johnson died; Overton remains in a coma and is unable to testify. Brewster pled guilty to second-degree murder and received a sentence of 15 years in prison. The other persons in the car with Brewster that night have fled the jurisdiction and are not available to testify.
Martha Johnson, Leon’s mother and the personal representative of his estate, has brought this wrongful death civil action seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Brewster, WASP and its president, Michael Miller. The matter has been bifurcated for trial; only issues of liability will be tried in this first phase.
Adapted by Michelle Giger and Karl Johnson, Esq.
From an Original Case Written by David Berlin, Esq., Michelle Giger, Karl Johnson, Esq., and H.N. Schamban, Esq.
Thanks to The Anti-Defamation League, Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees, Esq., Partners Against Hate, Teaching Tolerance, Nizkor Project, and Turn it Down.