Va. woman arrested for blogging about cops has white supremacist past
For almost a year, Elisha Strom hacked away at the blog that was mostly unknown to the world outside the law enforcement agencies that make up the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement (JADE) task force in central Virginia.
Unknown to the outside world, that is, until that blog got her arrested earlier this month.
Now the 34-year-old woman who operated I HeArTE JADE sits in a jail cell on a single charge of harassment of a police officer, a felony in Virginia punishable by up to six months in jail. Unable to pay her $7,500 bond, she will most likely remain incarcerated until Sept. 17th when her next court hearing is scheduled.
And while she comes across as playful, naive and curious in her blog postings – as well as obsessive and compulsive – her history reveals her to be a fiery white supremacist who was deeply engaged in the underground new-Nazi movement.
In fact, she was named one of “40 to Watch” in 2003 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center also says she is the author behind Angry White Female.
She is also married to Kevin Strom, one of the leaders of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organization whose goal is to secure a living space in the United States where only non-Jewish people of white European backgrounds are allowed to live.
But that marriage became estranged after she walked in on her husband masturbating to images of two young, white nationalist-movement singers whose heads had been superimposed onto two nude bodies. She later found actual child pornography on his computer.
She eventually helped convict her husband for child pornography, which is how she met at least one of the members of the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement task force, thus beginning her obsessiveness with the JADE task force.
And while she broke off ties with the National Alliance after the imprisonment of her husband (who has since been released), she still believes in keeping the white race pure, according to Charlottesville’s weekly newspaper, The Hook.
“I still consider myself a white nationalist, but I don’t consider myself part of that organization anymore,” she says. “I don’t want to be associated with a group that thinks a pedophile is okay.”
She also says she would never call herself a racist.
“I want separation of the races,” she explains. “I want a white nation.”
Charlottesville Police Detective Brian O’Donnell, one of the lead investigators in the case against her husband, apparently spent months talking to her as he gathered evidence against her husband.
And while this relationship appears to have been kept strictly professional, Strom appears to have developed an unhealthy obsession with O’Donnell, whom she refers to as “Longhead” on her blog.
She also appears to have had another relationship, much more intimate, with another officer who was not part of the task force. This one is only referred to as Boomslang and she insinuates that he provided her information on the task force.
From the time she launched her blog in October 2008 until the day of her arrest on July 12, Strom took delight in taunting the officers of the task force.
And she would get bolder with each post as she continually tested the boundaries, dismissing warning letters from the Charlottesville Police Chief as she followed the officers in their daily routines, photographing them and posting their pictures online, eventually publishing the home address of one officer.
She also followed them when they raided homes, even contacting the local newspaper to tip them off.
At one point, she appears to have contacted me inquiring about photographers rights.
In February 2009, after having received a second warning letter from Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo, Strom explains how she spent the day conducting research on the internet about the right to photograph police. She came across my site because she used two of my photos in her post.
For fun I spent a tiny portion of the remainder of my day researching the subject of photographing law enforcement specifically, and, due to what I found, wound up on the phone to an attorney in Oregon and also a reporter in Florida each of whom have such eye-opening pertinent stories I couldn’t resist contacting them.
To end my day, I put up this post with accompanying pre-publicized pictures taken of policemen by journalists, children, and ordinary citizens, who know photography is, much to the annoyance of self-important officers, not a crime.
The attorney in Oregon is Bert Krages (check out right sidebar) and I’m assuming the “reporter in Florida” is me. Although I didn’t speak to her by phone, as she says, I may have responded to an email because I do receive quite a lot of emails on this subject.
Of course she could have just been making the part about contacting us up because there is more than enough information on our sites that don’t require contacting us.
In a December 2008 blog post, she recounted a phone conversation she had with O’Donnell a year earlier in which he tells her he no longer needs her as a witness because her husband has changed his plea to guilty.
I let the news sink in for a moment. Strange I found my thoughts focusing more on Mr. O’Donnell than on the outcome of my husband and his crimes.
“So, I guess this means we’re done?” I asked, fishing for where this would leave him and me.
“Yes, we’re done” he replied matter-of-factly.
The call ultimately ended as politely as it had begun. We bid each other well for the approaching holiday and said good-bye. I snapped my cell phone shut, plugged it into its charger, and used my fingertips to brush away the lone teardrop from my cheek.
Ten months later, she launched her blog, dedicating her first post to him.
In a November 2008 post, she stated that one reason she was obsessed over JADE had to do with a certain bullying FBI Agent she met during her husband’s investigation (whom she later named as Jim Lamb). She also describes how JADE officers caught her taking pictures of them. And she dared them to try and stop her, insinuating that she possesses some damaging information against them or the Feds (or both?).
Absent a tremendous amount of details, prior to my decision to do any of this I’d received two bully calls from a certain FBI agent. (I know him because, again, absent a tremendous amount of details, some time ago I found myself in the position of being a witness for the prosecution in a federal unrelated-to-drugs case.) My response to the agent’s bullying was to accumulate information about the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement Task Force (there’s a conjunction, I swear). No doubt this was not the result the agent was going for.
In all seriousness, I don’t have much. I do have enough intelligence to, within the confines of the law, effectually take on what I believe is nothing more than a group of arrogant thugs.
Just like they were completely unaware of what I was up to with them, I have no idea what they’re doing in regards to me. But consider this: They can’t take away what I know. And once it’s out there… It’s. Out. There. They can’t get it back.
Will the Federal Bureau of Investigation make good on its threat? Time will tell. The bottom line: Maybe I’ll have to do the same.
Then in May 2009, she wrote that all she wanted from Detective O’Donnell was for him to answer some questions for her; simple questions that he never answered, such as:
How long have you been doing narcotics?
How many other people do you work with?
They as old as you? Y’all get along?
Do you all have a lot of cases?
How long does it take to close them?
How often do you raid houses? Do you raid houses?
How many busts in a week or month?
Do you actually go undercover — like in disguise?
Have you ever been shot at? Shot at anyone?
But then she received that bullying call from Lamb and realized that O’Donnell was never going to answer these questions. And that led her to find out everything she could about JADE.
But clearly, there must be more behind her motivations. Or one would hope. As it is, she is unemployed and unable to pay her bail. She also has a 12-year-old daughter whom she supports.
The key factor of this case boils down to how the judge or jury will define harassment.
In a recent jailhouse interview, she told The Hook that her intention was never to harass the cops, only to satisfy her curiosity.
“It’s not illegal to publish the address,” argues Strom in an exclusive jailhouse interview nearly two weeks after her July 16 arrest. “It’s not illegal to publish the photograph. It’s illegal to do so with the intention of harassment.”
Virginia ACLU officials see similarities between Virginia’s police harassment law and a similar one in Washington state that was overturned by U.S. District Court in Sheehan v. Gregoire.
“Based on the Sheehan case, [Virginia] law is probably unconstitutional as written,” says Willis. “You can publish information about public officials to goad them to action. It can’t contain an actual threat to do physical harm.”
And having read through her entire blog, I have not seen a single threat nor any indication that she was acting maliciously.
But I do see a woman who probably needs to lay off the cops and get a job and take care of her daughter.
I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar, which helps pay for the thousands of dollars I’ve acrued in debt since my arrest. To keep updated on the latest articles, join my networks at Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed.