KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The federal government appears to have shielded murder suspect Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, in the early 1990s as part of its witness-protection program, potentially providing money for his family — and causing lingering confusion over his name.
Federal authorities Tuesday would not confirm his participation in the program, as is their policy. But records strongly suggest he has spent at least some time under the government’s protective umbrella.
In 1987, Miller reached a plea bargain with federal prosecutors on weapons charges. In exchange for a reduced sentence, he agreed to testify against associates in paramilitary and white-supremacist movements.
But Miller’s plea bargain likely included federal witness-protection services as well. The 1987 sentencing memorandum recommended witness protection for Miller, according to Chris Shields, a domestic-terrorism researcher.
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Miller’s 1999 autobiography, “A White Man Speaks Out,” provides his account.
“I was to plead guilty to one count of felony possession of a hand grenade and answer all questions posed to me by the authorities,” Miller wrote. “In return, they would recommend a 5-year prison sentence, immunity from any further prosecution by either state or federal authorities, and entrance into the Federal Witness Protection Program which included the financial support of my family while I served my sentence.”
Federal authorities will not say whether Miller actually joined the program. But records show Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. received a Social Security number in 1990. That was the year Miller was released from prison — and 35 years after Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. obtained his Social Security number.
Public records connect both names and Social Security numbers to Miller’s address in Aurora, Mo.
A name change and new Social Security record are consistent with participation in the witness-protection program, said Gerald Shur, who designed the federal program and supervised it until his retirement.
“It’s a court-ordered name change at the request of the government,” he said. “If you didn’t change their names, they could be more easily located.”
Shur also has said people entering the program commonly keep their first names.
Additionally, an acting U.S. attorney told The Associated Press in 1988 that Miller had been approved for the federal government’s witness-protection program. Name-change court records for federally protected witnesses are sealed.
In his autobiography, Miller said he served his time in the federal prison at Otisville, N.Y., a medium-security facility. Shur said Otisville is one of a handful of prisons with special facilities for inmates in the witness-protection program, further suggesting Miller’s participation.
Relocations are also part of witness protection. After his release, Miller moved to Iowa, not Missouri or North Carolina where he had engaged in his anti-government activities.
There is little doubt that Miller was in danger when he was released from custody in 1990. His decision to testify against other members of the movement had infuriated other supremacists and members of the paramilitary.
He testified in a 1988 sedition trial in Fort Smith, Ark., where 14 white supremacists were accused of conspiring to kill a federal judge and FBI agent, and plotting to overthrow the federal government.
All were acquitted.
But word of Miller’s testimony roared through the ultraconservative underground, leading some members to call Miller a traitor “who deserves the time honored penalty for treason,” as one website declared.
The FBI provided bodyguards at another Miller court appearance, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday.
Taking part in the protection program would afford Miller at least some defense against retaliation.
In his book, Miller said he trained as a truck driver after his release. He made no other mention of federal financial support for him or his family, although some limited compensation is common, Shur said.
In any event, Miller slowly worked his way back into the supremacist movement. At some point he began using the Miller name publicly, in his political campaigns, newsletters and Internet posts.
That’s also common, Shur said. Many people who enter the witness-protection program leave it voluntarily.
“If he went back to using his old name, he’s out of the program immediately,” he said. “He would not have the physical protection, and he would not have any assistance in his life.”
But Miller apparently retained the Cross name as well. He is charged under that name.
Critics said Tuesday the government should not have plea-bargained with Miller in 1987.
“That man shouldn’t have been running around free,” said Leonard Zeskind, president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. “He should’ve died in prison.”
Former federal prosecutor Patrick McInerney discounted speculation that a longer prison term might have prevented Sunday’s tragedy.
“For someone to predict that 30 years after he testified for the government he would do something like this is a little bit of a stretch,” McInerney said.
Miller’s road to federal prison and witness protection was long.
In his book, Miller claimed he received $200,000 from Robert Mathews, the leader of The Order, a violent white-supremacist group, in August 1984. Mathews’ goal was to lead a white underground army to establish a separate Aryan Republic in the Pacific Northwest.
The group paid for its activities by robbing banks and armored cars, and members were involved in the murders of Denver radio talk-show host Alan Berg in June 1984 and a Missouri state trooper in April 1985.
Miller said that he asked whether the money was stolen and that Mathews replied, “Yes, it is, but it was stolen from ZOG’s banks.” ZOG is a white supremacist acronym for Zionist Occupation Government.
Miller said that although he’d committed numerous misdemeanors in his life, accepting the money marked his first foray into breaking the law in his capacity as leader of a “white racist organization,” in his own words.
“I decided to accept the money, knowing full well I’d be committing a felony and subjecting myself to possible imprisonment,” he wrote. “But since I was convinced the federal government was either going to throw me in prison on trumped up charges or kill me anyway, then accepting the stolen money didn’t seem unreasonable at the time.”
Getting the money, Miller said, “was like a dream come true.”
But within a few months of Miller’s accepting the final installment, Mathews was killed in a fire after a machine-gun battle with federal agents.
In 1986, Miller was found guilty of a criminal contempt-of-court charge after violating the terms of an agreement that settled a lawsuit filed against him and his group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was sentenced to a year in prison, with six months of the term suspended, and ordered to have no contact with white supremacists.
On April 30, 1987, authorities raided a mobile home he and others had rented in Ozark, Mo.
“Inside the mobile home and in one of our vans parked outside, the feds found C-4 plastic explosives, dynamite, pipe bombs, hand grenades, fully automatic M-16, AR-15 machine guns, sawed off shotguns, pistols, crossbows, and around a half-ton of ammunition, to list some of it,” he wrote.
That kind of ammunition might have led to a lengthy prison term for Miller. But legal experts say prosecutors have good reasons to make deals.
For one, penetrating a hate group can be particularly difficult for authorities, said Kansas City criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor John Osgood.
Prosecutors typically look at the least culpable defendant with the greatest access to the conspiracy as a good candidate for a deal. Potential witnesses may disclose what they know to prosecutors and investigators in what’s known as a “proffer” session — with the understanding that if prosecutors decide to pass on a deal, the information cannot be used against the witness.
Former U.S. Attorney for Western Missouri Steve Hill described the calculation: “What does he know? What do I have to give up to get it? And how bad a guy is this?”