Note: All underlining has been done by WNCCEIB to highlight keys points. There is no underlining in the original document.
An Interview With Kirk Lyons
by John B. Baumgardner
Kirk Lyons is the founder and director of the Houston based Patriot's Defense Foundation (PDF). The foundation was established in the hopes that it would become the "legal arm" of the American patriot movement. Contact Mr. Lyons at the following address:
Patriot's Defense Foundation
2323 McCue, Suite 2
Houston, Texas 77056
Q. What is the Patriot's Defense Foundation?
A. It's essentially a non-profit organization that's seeking tax-exempt status from the IRS. The easiest way to look at it is that it's a non-profit law firm.
Q. What is your educational background?
A. I have a degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin that I received in May of 1978. I have a Jurist Doctorate from the University of Houston that I received in May of 1983. I then passed the Texas Bar and was admitted to practice in all the courts in the state of Texas. (WNCCEIB note: Kirk Lyons is not licensed to practice law in North Carolina.)
Q. How has being a representative for skin-heads, klansmen and other white supremacists affected your private law practice?
A. As executive director of the foundation I can't take the time to handle a private practice and be available to a nationwide constituency. In other words, if there is a case that needs my attention in Pennsylvania, taking cases in Houston would do nothing but bog me down. If I have to go for a divorce hearing or depositions for some private, small, unimportant matter, that keeps me from going where I need to be available. And so, for the purposes of the foundation, I have had to completely close and not take any private cases which has been a pretty severe financial burden. As far as going to work for some yuppie law firm or going to work in a recognized established firm-any chance of that happening stopped the day I took the case at Fort Smith (sedition trial of 1987-88).
Q. Has that affected you emotionally?
A. What has happened is that I feel like I'm under siege all the time. I have no private life to speak of because I work out of my apartment. I don't have the funds to get a separate office. That means that I'm basically on call 24 hours a day and so getting away rom the phone is almost like a holiday. There are many times that I hate to hear the thing ring because it means somebody else is in trouble, and I literally get calls from all over the country.
Q. Are the calls increasing?
A. Well, we get more calls and more letters now that the foundation has been formed.
Q. Has that increase started producing any support for the foundation?
A. The foundation's sole support right now comes every time we put out a mailing, or somebody else puts out a mail-out for us in their publication, getting us a response. Unfortunately most people haven't got the foggiest idea how much money it takes to run a law firm and how expensive legal services are. Right now we are limping along and for us to get more money we have to put out a mail-out, which costs even more money. These mail-outs have about a two week spread where donations come in. After that it peters off and we have to send another mail-out. That's why we put out a newsletter "The Balance" which was an attempt to keep people informed. Right now, our basic problem is that we just don't reach enough people. We only have about 3,000 people on our mailing list. A lot of those names came from old mailing lists. We're not even sure everybody out there is getting our mailing. Of those 3,000 names only 269 people have contributed to the foundation. That's nowhere near enough to finance this thing. Right now we have raised $20,000 since October, and when you take out the cost of mail-outs and the printing of our publication you take out the equipment we've had to buy (a Xerox machine, a laser printer, and all those things) plus phone bills, which are going through the roof right now because we accept collect calls from prisoners and people in trouble, it's way out of control. Our salaries, for myself and my assistant Randy, have averaged out to about $600.00 per month. The main problem is that our premise has always been if everybody gives a little every month we can make this thing work. Otherwise, we don't have enough people giving.
Q. Have you noticed an increase?
A. We have noticed that when we were using a typewriter and a Xerox machine we got more than when we put out our slick newsletter.
Q. Do you think the slick newsletter made people think you were doing well financially?
A. That's what we are afraid people thought. We also try to project an image o power; people assume we're a rich slick law firm that doesn't need any help.
Q. Do you think it would help to go back to the old format?
A. Well, the problem is that we have got to be a professional firm like any other firm, if we have viability at all (and I don't say that we do at this point). We've got to fight on the same level as our enemies, and that means slick lawyers, slick publications, it's got to look professional in every way. People out there can't figure that out. Unfortunately, I'm finding out that a lot of people in our movement haven't got two nickels worth of sense. You find out just all the kinds of fruitcakes that we have in our movement that probably would be better off on the other side. When you have to open your mail and get all this crazy stuff; there are people that malign your motives, and people that claim you're a Mason, you know. Our movement really does hate success. It hates people that appear successful. We're dealing with so many individualists and that's probably the biggest problem we have to face, getting it through people's heads that we're here for everybody , not just the special or the few or the people who agree this way or that way. We represent people that hate each other but we've got to be there for everybody. I will never be a force for dividing us, the one thing is that I keep my eye on the ball and I keep my finger pointed in one direction, at our enemies, and I don't point at anybody else on our side of the line! The other thing is that a lot of our people just don't have a lot of money so that's a problem there. Many of the people who support the foundation are on Social Security and fixed incomes. They are sending me all they can, it may be only $5 or $10 a month and we do appreciate it but we need more people involved.
Q. Do you think if you got $5 or $10 a month from every one of the individuals that says they are concerned with this type of organization, would that be enough to support and run the foundation?
A. Well, let's look at it this way; we have 3000 people on our mailing list, if every one of them sent $1 a month-that would be $3000 a month. That's not what we need to do, what we want to do, but it sure would go a long way.
Q. Are you saying that people are not backing this up the way they should?
A. Yes, I think that's it. The other part of the problem is that we're just not reaching enough people. We don't have the resources to remind people that they made a pledge. We don't have the resources to badger people to support us; right now we can't afford to put the newsletter out again. I'm not going to put out a half-ass production-we've gotten nothing but praise from the newsletter. I'm not going to put out something that looks worse that (sic) that just to save money. I'll put out one just as nice when I have the money to do it. It's only an instrument, the newsletter is not our business. We could go into the newsletter business and we could charge a subscription and guarantee everybody a certain number of issues a year, but that's not our business. Our business is to go on the offensive, defend people who are on trial and file lawsuits on behalf of people in our movement so that we can start taking the war into the enemies court, and that we're completely unable to do at this point. We're not ready really, to do much of anything at all and yet people are expecting us to pull rabbits out of our hat. They want us to show that we are doing something so that they can justify supporting us. It's a catch 22 situation. I have a lot of people who say they'll send us money when we get a track record. What more can I do to show that I'm not a tool of ZOG or a bought and paid for mason, or that I'm honest and sincere? You know, the foundation is new but my track record goes back to Ft. Smith and that nearly bankrupted me.
Q. Do you think that people in our movement think they can receive a fair trial in our court system?
A. A lot of people really don't think they can get a fair shake out of the court system, and frankly share that view. I have no illusions about the impact we can make (even properly funded) on the court system. It's still a rotten corrupt system and nothing will change that. We are in a pre-revolutionary America. People found out what happens when you try to revolt, witness what happened to the Order. We have only certain weapons we can use to fight for our liberties and one of those is the courts and since it is available to us we need to use it while we can. (WNCCEIB note: The Order was a violent white supremacist organization in the early 80s. Lyons' own brother-in-law was part of it and is in jail in Missouri for murdering a Missouri State Trooper who pulled over his van load of explosives and weapons in 1984.)
Q. Do you think our people can receive an unbiased decision from a jury today?
A. It's hard to say-the one in Ft. Smith gave a fair judgment, the one in Dallas-the Confederate Hammer Skins case is a good example. I wasn't able to get in on that one because there was no money at all to help me get up there and help them. Only $50 was raised to help those men. There is not much I could have done for them. As it was they were appointed some pretty competent attorneys, and those guys gave 'em a good run for their money but in the end it didn't make any difference, the jury had already made up its mind.
Q. Do you feel that the jury is a resource we haven't tapped?
A. Yes, I think that Ft. Smith and Shelby, North Carolina, proved that there are good juries out there. The problem is, that if a man is on trial it doesn't really matter if it's a good jury or not, there is one way to find out and that's to go to trial. You might as well take the best shot you got and you might get a good one. Unfortunately, right now, everybody thinks we're a legal insurance scheme. Well, we're not and we can't be. We get calls for help all the time and we can't help them because we're not licensed. I'm only licensed in one state, Texas. I'm also licensed in a few federal courts but I can't drop everything and go pick up a defense because there is no money in the war chest.
Q. How do you propose to eliminate that situation?
A. For one thing, if all we can count on is one attorney, then we really are sunk. What I'm trying to build is a network that will survive, and if we can properly fund this thing, if we can put some real money into this foundation and get it set up so that it is a powerful entity, attorneys will work with us. We will hire attorneys if we need to.
Q. I see what you're saying, you'll hire attorneys in the state where you need him.
A. Let's say a case comes up in Minnesota-I can try a case in Minnesota but I have to have an attorney in Minnesota that I can co-counsel with. If a defendant gets an appointed attorney, that attorney can then ask for me, I can then co-counsel with him.
Q. Is that something that would generally happen?
A. That's what has happened every time I have tried a case. In Ft. Smith there was a local attorney as appointed counsel for Louis Beam. In Shelby, Doug Sheets had two appointed attorneys, he just wouldn't talk to them or work with them. That's where I came in. That's the way it really has to work, there has to be local counsel. Right now I have 21 attorneys on our mailing list, and they're waiting to see what's going to happen to this foundation but they're not going to support a weakling. They're not going to take a chance with a weakling. It's going to have to be something that comes in there with briefs as good as any. It's going to have to project an image of power. Right now we don't project an image of much of anything.
Q. Is the foundation making progress?
A. It's making progress. The fact that we're still in business means that we've made progress. We're just in a slump as far as fund raising. I'm in this. I can't go back to the private sector. The only way back into private sector is for me to crawl like a snake. You all are stuck with me. I'll find a way to make it work. I may have to cut back. I may have to drop my only employee which I would hate to do. My main problem right now is that I don't even have a secretary. I couldn't type a legal brief if my life depended on it. We're at a critical point right now. There is a lot we could do but we're missing a few small parts to make the car run.
Q. What kind of requests is the foundation receiving?
A. Mostly people that make mistakes and end up in jail. I got a call today from two skinhead girls that flipped the bird at someone and were arrested for making a threat. I got a call from a mom who says her son burned a cross and now he has been indicted on federal conspiracy charges, just for burning a little one foot cross that he nailed to a telephone pole across the street from a black. I get all kinds of requests. If we see a valid constitutional issue that affects a broad number of people, that's the kind of case we'll take. A perfect example is the case of the three klansmen dismissed from the Air Force. That case right now is on hold, we don't have the funds. Right now I'm afraid to walk out the door for fear everything will be gone when I get back.
Q. That bad?
A. Yes, it's pretty bad. I was taking the position of not telling everybody my problems, right now I'm telling everybody how bad the foundation is so they won't let it sink.
Q. So it's working out the way you expected?
A. I did not expect it would be easy and I did not expect the money to grow on trees. I know about this movement's ability to raise money. I knew we didn't have any money but I was confident that if enough people would understand what I'm doing and see that if you're in this business, supporting a legal foundation is a cost of doing business, we could get it going. I am in competition with every right wing group out there, every publication that asks for donations, every movement leader that asks for money. I'm in direct competition with every one of them and that's part of the problem. Nobody wants to cut their own nest back to feed another bird. That is something that just has to be dealt with because I think that what I'm doing can be very important to our movement. Everybody in the movement is going to have to understand that we do need a legal arm, and if we're going to have it we're going to have to pay for it and it ain't cheap! That's the bottom line. There is nothing cheap about legal services. There is nothing cheap about court reporters, there is nothing cheap about depositions, lawyers's salaries, brief researching, paralegals, secretaries, typing, office, all of that. I need a Fax machine, I need a computer assisted legal researcher, I need all the things the other law firms have and that's all expenses. I want to be able to offer a job to someone in our movement who wants to go to law school. I hope to offer scholarships. Those are thing that we can do, and I think these things will come our way in time, we just have to survive our growing pains.
--End of The Klansman's interview with Kirk D. Lyons-
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