Arson suspect admits mixing synagogue firebombs

"I mixed up all the, all the Jewish cocktails, so to speak," Williams said in a Dec. 4 interview with Sacramento-based KOVR-TV reporter Jon Baird.

Williams made a collect phone call to the reporter from the Shasta County Jail in Redding, where he and his brother, James Tyler Williams, 29, are being held while standing trial for the July 2 murder of a gay couple.

"I was part of an organization that was involved in that," he told Baird. He said he mixed oil and gasoline to make the firebombs that destroyed a library at Congregation B'nai Israel, rendered Kenesset Israel Torah Center unusable and damaged Congregation Beth Shalom, all in the Sacramento area.

Williams is also a suspect in the July 2 firebombing of a Sacramento abortion clinic.

When the police arrested the brothers in July, they seized from their home hundreds of fliers from hate groups and other documents that pointed to an obsessive contempt for Jews, gays and other minorities.

Court records show that Williams had been corresponding with a Sacramento-area leader of the National Alliance, an anti-Semitic hate group that the ADL calls one of the most dangerous.

When Baird asked how Williams made it to the three besieged synagogues in 35 minutes, Williams replied, "Why would you assume that I have to run to three different locations? I was part of an organization that was involved in that."

Baird had asked Williams for an interview, but Williams, in a letter dated Nov. 18, requested remuneration to the tune of $1,414.14, a recognized allusion in supremacist circles to the 14-word sentence "We must serve the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Adding "I am in financial straits," Williams concluded by writing, "With the receits [sic] in hand, i will grant you a very interesting & detailed interview revealing the details of the beginnings of the holy cleansings." He signed the letter "Benjamin Williams," adding "not 'Matthew but BEN.'" Williams is called by his middle name, as is his brother.

Baird declined, however, saying his station does not pay for interviews. That did not stop Williams from trying to wheedle money from him during the interview.

Police are investigating one of the six men indicted for their suspected role in the Nov. 30 firebombing of a Reno synagogue for a possible link to the Sacramento arsons.

According to a police complaint, Yolo County resident Scott Cody Hudson, 23, may have been involved in the attacks. Police said the suspect may have ties to the National Alliance.

However, Jonathan Bernstein, director of the Anti-Defamation League Central Pacific region, played down the investigation.

"It's not a big issue," he said. That federal agents took so long to file charges "leads me to believe they talked to a lot more people than they thought they would."

He added, "They gave us the impression they will be filing charges any time now."

However, the police report also indicates an aborted late-night hit on Temple Emanu El in Reno on Nov. 30 may have been the first item on a long list of attacks the group of skinheads had planned.

A joint force consisting of the Reno Police Department Gang Unit and the FBI arrested Chris Scott Hampton, 22, of Stead, Nev.; Joshua Andrew Kudlacek, 18, of Lemon Valley, Nev.; and a 17-year-old girl in the Reno incident.

Then, Dec. 8, FBI agents arrested Carl Barry DeAmicis, 25, and Daniel Austin McIntosh, 39, at the North Highlands home of McIntosh's father, outside Sacramento.

According to the complaint, the group created a Molotov cocktail using a 40-ounce Mickey's malt liquor bottle, gasoline and a rag.

The two older men have been charged with arson and bomb-making and could face 50 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Bernstein said the crime fits a common profile: an older instigator who involves younger followers.

"The case down in San Jose is the same," he said, referring to the firebombing of the home of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jack Komar. "You've got a bunch of 17-year-olds and a clan leader pulling all the strings."

In the South Bay, Victor Podbreger, 19, learned he would stand trial for arson, possession of a destructive device and committing a hate crime in the Aug. 29 firebombing, which did only minor damage.

At Podbreger's preliminary hearing on Dec. 8 in a San Mateo County courtroom, prosecutors played a taped confession to a San Jose police officer. In it, Podbreger rails against Jews, saying all synagogues should be destroyed.

Podbreger, a skinhead who was allegedly feared in his neighborhood, admitted that he painted swastikas on Komar's home last year. But he insisted it was not a hate crime, and said the swastika is a symbol of peace. Although he said he chose the judge's home at random, his two minor companions in the attack said Podbreger targeted Komar because he believed the judge was Jewish. In fact, he is Roman Catholic.

Also on Dec. 8, Podbreger's 17-year-old accomplice, known only as Lucas, was sentenced to 10 months in a juvenile correctional facility. A second 17-year-old, Christopher, fared worse than Lucas, who had no prior criminal record. Christopher was sentenced for serving as an accessory to the crime and sent to the California Youth Authority. He could remain there until he is 25.

Rebecca Rosen Lum

Rebecca Rosen Lum is a freelance writer.