By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Yee said he became uneasy with Stice's preoccupation and wondered, "Why he's telling all this to a cop." After a final conversation, during which Yee said he was trying to "humor" Stice, he called other group members and expressed concern that Stice was "a loose cannon." The lawsuits say Stice's behavior was a major factor in the decision, in April 1997, to disband the SCMA.
That month, Yee and Swanson assert in court papers, Stice went on vacation to Virginia. When he phoned from there, asking Mark Grand about the outcome of an SCMA meeting, Grand said the group was breaking up. Stice quickly returned to California and began pressing Yee to organize one more shooting practice in Burro Canyon in the Angeles National Forest. "He said he hadn't shot for a while and was experiencing withdrawals," said Yee.
"He asked, 'Can you get all the guys together tomorrow or Tuesday?' I said, 'Everybody works.'" Yee said he finally got a few people together for Thursday, May 8. They were arrested before dawn the next day.
The second "provocateur," a cop named Dave Ralph, is allegedly a uniformed LAPD officer whom the federal lawsuits allege helped form the SCMA in mid-1995. Ralph quit the group in late 1996.
Swanson and Yee describe Ralph as an anti-immigration activist who was "real tight" with Glenn Spencer, a leader of Voices of Citizens Together, a San Fernando Valley-based group that backed Proposition 187 (the 1994 ballot measure to deny state services to undocumented immigrants). The pair said Ralph asked the SCMA to provide security for a demonstration Spencer planned, but the SCMA refused because its members didn't want to be involved in politics.
Spencer confirmed in an interview that he knew Ralph as a cop who has attended VCT meetings. "He's one of our members," Spencer said.
Ralph's political activism, whether it flowed from the heart or from Parker Center, extended at least as far as Glendale's KIEV talk radio. KIEV staff identify the LAPD officer as one of three individuals who aired a program on gun owners' rights that was "very proactive on the Second Amendment." The program went off the air in January 1996.
The lawsuits say Ralph tried "to connect the SCMA with a 'right-wing' political group within the city limits of Los Angeles, in order to justify and legitimatize the ongoing illegal undercover investigation."
Ralph subsequently proposed something more ominous, according to Yee: "One day Dave Ralph arrived and he said, 'What do you think about doing a real operation? We'll go to South-Central and see what happens and we'll take extra guns. Guaranteed we'll get into it with the indigenous population.' Everyone thought that was a lame idea," said Yee. Ralph quit the group soon after, Yee said.
The original court-imposed guidelines for the ATD did not allow officers to infiltrate organizations undercover or to propose illegal activities. Officers had "an obligation not to create a situation where they can make arrests," said Dan Stormer, a civil rights attorney who took part in negotiating the ATD's original guidelines. "They have no right to create a scenario." The current guidelines could not be reviewed because they were recently classified as top-secret.
According to the lawsuits filed by the SCMA members, the ATD in 1997 was an outfit in survival mode, ready to "concoct" a "fraudulent investigation" to "justify its own existence." The plaintiffs' court papers contend that "The ATD was . . . being threatened by superiors . . . with dissolution in light of the fact that ATD had not produced any arrests or significant intelligence regarding domestic terrorism." Attorney Stoller said in an interview that he has information supporting that assertion. An LAPD spokesperson said he "could not verify" that the ATD was in jeopardy of disbanding.
The plaintiffs are also seeking damages against the prosecutors in the SCMA case. Stoller accuses the D.A.'s Office of "prosecutorial misconduct," for allowing the cops to withhold evidence. On April 21, as Yee was standing before Judge Veals to enter his guilty plea, Deputy D.A. Monaghan conceded that the original prosecutor on the case filed the case "under some circumstances that I certainly wouldn't have allowed . . . that apparently not the investigating officer, but their superiors within the [LAPD] indicated to the city attorney that they wanted to invoke a privilege . . . to not allow certain evidence to be used in a prosecution. Why my office agreed to that, I don't really know."
Monaghan declined when asked outside the courtroom to elaborate on that comment.
Eight of Yee's colleagues from the Irwindale Police Department turned up to testify on his behalf at the sentencing hearing, including Yee's commander, along with 26 friends and relatives. Only three officers were allowed to testify; one was Shan Jenkins.
In his testimony, Jenkins said Yee's main motivation in training "was the L.A. riots - people stealing arms from sporting-goods stores." During a break in the proceedings, Jenkins said he shot with the SCMA at Burro Canyon and the members impressed him as "not at all" political - simply "a group of guys that liked to shoot together." Other Irwindale officers testified that they frequently discussed the prospect of facing firearms stolen in the 1992 civil unrest, firepower superior to their own.