Monday, July 23, 2007

Aryan Nations Fugitive Sentenced

Bertollini receives 41-month federal sentence
Jun 26, 2007
Bonner County Daily Bee

SANDPOINT -- Aryan Nations supporter and former fugitive Richard Vincent Bertollini was sentenced last week to more than three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to illegal possession of firearms.

Federal Judge James O. Browning sentenced Bertollini on June 19 to serve 41 months in prison, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, N.M. The court rejected a defense recommendation that Bertollini serve 15-21 months, records show.

Bertollini, 67, was indicted on multiple counts of illegal possession of firearms following his arrest by federal agents in Santa Fe, N.M. in April 2006. The arrest ended Bertollini's flight from felony drunken-driving charges in Bonner County, which lasted nearly five years.

Bertollini vanished from northern Idaho in July 2001, while he was awaiting trial as a repeat offender on a driving under the influence charge. Bertollini's ties to the notorious white supremacy group turned his disappearance into a federal manhunt, the FBI said after his arrest.

Bertollini fled because he believed he would not receive a fair trial and feared going blind in prison due to an eye injury, Federal Public Defender Mike Keefe said in court documents.

Bertollini was returned to Idaho, where he entered into an agreement requiring him to plead guilty to driving under the influence and jumping bail. District Judge James Michaud sentenced Bertollini in August to six months in jail before being turned over to federal authorities to deal with the charges of being a fugitive in possession of firearms.

At the time of his arrest, agents discovered a sawed-off, 12-gauge shotgun with a shell racked into firing position. The search of the pickup truck he was driving also yielded a load 380-caliber semiautomatic pistol, federal court documents indicate.

Keefe, in calling for a downward departure from sentencing guidelines, said that Bertollini used the weapons for hunting and self-defense. Keefe emphasized that Bertollini was not violent, a contention which the defense sought to backstop with a series of letters from family and friends.

The letters portray Bertollini as a successful Silicon Valley executive, and a loving husband and father who went on humanitarian missions to India.

Sentencing documents explain that Bertollini grew up Pittsburgh and joined the U.S. Navy in 1958. After being honorably discharged, he began working for Fairchild Semiconductor. He went on to jobs with GME, Union Carbide and Cal-Tex Exitron, a company which developed some of the first consumer digital watches and calculators.

Bertollini spent seven years selling real estate before returning the semiconductor field in 1980. He relocated to northern Idaho in 1994, court records said.

Neither court records nor the letters of support explain Bertollini's transition from retired businessman to outspoken co-founder of 11th Hour Remnant Messenger, a group which spent millions spreading its anti-Semitic beliefs through the mail.

Bertollini also counted late Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler as a friend and reportedly bought him a home in Hayden after the organization was driven into bankruptcy by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed a civil suit on behalf of two Bonner County residents who were attacked by Aryan Nations security guards.

Bertollini continues to maintain he is not a neo-Nazi or a white supremacist -- labels he says have been unfairly pinned on him by the media. Bertollini insists 11th Hour was a Christian Identity outreach group which never advocated violence, Keefe said in court documents.

Bertollini was ordered to serve his sentence at a federal lockup in Phoenix or a minimum security prison in southeastern Arizona, although a determination on which facility was pending at the time of sentence.

"Mr. Bertollini is now 67 years old and is tired of being on the run and wants to resolve this matter as quickly as possible so that he can live out his remaining years in relative peace and quiet," Keefe said in court documents.