A federal court jury deliberated just 21/2 hours before convicting an 18-year-old man in a 1993 pipe-bombing of a Dixie College dormitory housing black students.
The 12-member panel returned the verdict Monday afternoon following the six-day trial for Robert Allen Little, originally of California City, Calif.He was convicted on one count of malicious destruction with use of an explosive and two civil-rights violations and could face up to 10 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson scheduled sentencing for July 22.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Paul Warner said he hoped the ver-dicts would be noticed by white supremacists and other hate groups.
"We're pleased. We think this case sends a strong message that hate crimes won't be tolerated in this state and those who commit them will be vigorously prosecuted," he said.
Defense attorney Benjamin Knowlton said he was exploring an appeal. Possible grounds include the judge's decision allowing evidence of Little's participation in a California racial firebombing and the judge's refusal to allow evidence about Little's former roommate's mental-health problems.
Knowlton contends a St. George-area group of white supremacists, not Little, was responsible for the bombing.
Little contended he was alone in his apartment when the bomb was set off.
"I obviously was hopeful they wouldn't convict him because he's so young. It was my feeling that he was just a fall-guy and a patsy," Knowlton said. "He was a young kid and a wannabe. He shaved his head. He was a lonely little boy.
"He wanted friends and just hung around with the wrong crowd," the attorney added. "The information I had didn't suggest he was the perpetrator, but the jury didn't feel that way."
During trial, former skinhead Raymond DeWitt Jr. testified that Little had made sure no whites were living in the Shiloh dormitory before he detonated the bomb outside the room of two black athletes.
"These niggers, they're raping our women and stealing everything we have. Somebody's got to do something," DeWitt quoted Little as saying.
Another acquaintance of Little's, David Smith, said that when he expressed concern about the Oct. 10, 1993, bombing having endangered people, "He said it wasn't like he was a murderer. He said blacks are subhuman, so it wasn't like he was killing human beings."
No one was injured in the blast, which blew out the windows of one apartment and sent shrapnel flying into walls and ceilings.
Former Dixie College student Isaac Fields also testified that after the bomb was set off outside his dorm and he received a threatening note, he left school.
Fields said that after hearing the explosion, he and some friends found that the windows in the room belonging to Gary Brown and Ronald Kemp had been shattered and the interior damaged.
Outside, they spotted the remnants of an L-shaped pipe bomb labeled with a red "KKK" inside a metal box.
Little's roommate said Little constructed a bomb at the kitchen table, putting "KKK" on it in red fingernail polish.
The following day, Fields said he found on his door a folded piece of paper containing a swastika, another reference to the Ku Klux Klan, a drawing of someone hanging from a tree and a reference to killing all blacks.
Eight months before the dorm bomb, Little was involved in a bombing and fire that gutted a black family's home in California City, police said. Little, then 15, was arrested and convicted, but escaped to St. George.
In closing arguments, Knowlton reminded jurors that the Dixie bombing occurred at the height of public debate over the Rodney King riots in southern California.
Anti-black slurs "are common" and "not radical there," Knowlton said.
He also hit hard at the police failure to fingerprint a rusted metal box that contained the bomb, and the pipe bomb itself.
Warner countered that Little left his mark all over the bomb, however - the "KKK" inscription.
"The lady with the scales of justice is blind, but she's not stupid or naive," Warner said.