Q. How did you tell your group you were leaving?
A. Well, I didn't tell them. I didn't call them up and say, "I'm out." They found out two days before a Time Magazine story came out about me.
Q. How do racist groups finance themselves?
A. There are different factions. There is Propaganda, which I belonged to. That was my job, propaganda and recruiting. Then you have ones that deal strictly with media and making CD's (music) and putting out magazines. Then you have those that are considered underground. Those are the guys that are trading guns and learning how to make bombs. Some of them do armed robbery. They rob banks and armored cars to gather money. It also has some very rich backers, like doctors, lawyers and computer software makers.
Q. What's the difference between the Nazi movement and the Skinhead movement?
A. There's no difference. It's all about National Socialism, which is Nazism. It's all about that. The Nazis were not only in Germany in the 1930's and 40's just like the skinheads of today are not only in the United States.
Q. Is there a type of person you would try to recruit?
A. If a kid was white he was a kid we tried to recruit. The loners, the bullies, and the popular kids too. The popular kids were the best, because if you got him/her then you would get his/her friends.
Q. Did people from your group go with you into the military?
A. Yes, several of us joined the military. Out of the twenty people that were in the Skinhead group I belonged to, probably eight of us joined different branches of the military service.
Q. Did you recruit anyone while you were in the armed services?
A. Oh, yes. I recruited people when I was in the marines. The military has a code that says you can belong to a hate group as long as you are passive. As long as I wasn't getting into any trouble, they considered that passive. Yet, I would play the music in the barracks. I would be blaring my racist Oi! Music so that anyone walking by could hear it. Everybody on the base knew that I was a Skinhead.
Q. Are there people who deny the Holocaust happened?
A. Yes. There are "history revisionists" in the racist movement. This means they don’t believe it happened. They don't believe there were six million Jewish people killed and that another 5 million plus non-Jewish people were killed.
Questions from members of the ARA (Anti-Racist Action) and SHARP (Skinheads’ Against Racial Prejudice).
Q. What do you think of groups like the ARA (Anti-Racist Action) and SHARP (SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice) skinheads?
A. Groups such as the ARA and SHARP skinheads, who fight with the racists, only help the racist cause. Fighting hate with violence is counter-productive. Attacking a racist and putting him/her in the hospital will not stop them from being racist. On the contrary, it will actually strengthen his/her resolve.
Q. Don’t you see that fighting racism is better than doing nothing?
A. Fighting these racists is exactly what they want you to do. By fighting them, they grow stronger and the people in the racist movement gain heroes that stand up to you.
Q. By fighting these racists and kicking them out of our neighborhoods, don't you think we are doing what is right?
A. No. You are violating their first amendment rights. As much as I dislike racism, they do have a right in this country as Americans. You, by kicking them out of your neighborhoods, don't solve the problem. You're just moving it to a different town.
Q. We are fighting racism in the same way that the World War II Vets and the people of the Warsaw Ghetto did against the Nazi’s.
A. You are not WWII Vets or like the people of the Warsaw Ghetto. These people fought and died to save a people and a nation. The Vets and the survivors that I have had the pleasure of talking to would never approve of violence to solve this problem. They believe in education. Violence is what Hitler used. The Vets and the survivors were defending themselves and their freedoms when they had to resort to violence.
Questions from other people over the last few years.
Q. What was life like for you growing up?
A. At home: HELL. My parents were fighting over everything! I just didn't want to be home. Outside of the home was fun, I was independent! I was hanging out with kids 4-6 years older than myself. I was drinking, partying and fighting; life seemed exciting at that time.
Q. How did you get involved with the Skinhead group, and why?
A. I was on the streets a lot with my friends, going to punk rock shows. The kids that were the toughest and the most feared were the SKINS. I met some guys from a group known as Circle One. Listened & learned. One of them told me about this group, near my home, and it all took off from there. Why? Because I felt like a big man. I was 14, almost 15, and I was hanging out with guys many years older than myself.
Q. What kind of things did you do as a member of the group?
A. First, I stopped doing any drugs because they told me to quit. Mostly we drank a lot and got in fights. We hung out together like a family; skinheads and their girls. We worked on recruiting new kids into the group. Sometimes we would go on hunts for minorities and people who just pissed us off!
Q. What were the beliefs of the group?
A. They were similar to the original Nazi’s of WWII: world expansion and domination of the white race. Our goal was that the Jew must be eliminated from the world.
Q. You were a Marine?
A. Yes, for 3 years. Then I was discharged on an "other than honorable" for drinking and fighting. Surprisingly, not for racism.
Q. Did you try and recruit people while in the service?
A. Yes, and did an OK job at it. I showed my racism openly in the Marine Corp. I found some allies in higher ranks as well and that included the officers. I had a Nazi battle flag hanging in my wall locker. I read and passed out racist literature i.e.; Mein Kampf and The Turner Diaries. I had noticeable racist tattoos and sported my racist attire when not in uniform.
Q. How did you end up as a leader in the neo-Nazi movement?
A. I was a really good recruiter. The more I got kids in to the movement, the more people noticed me. I was also working with some of the big leaders in the white power world.
Q. As a recruiter, what kinds of kids did you target and why?
A. I targeted some loners, but for the most part I went after the leaders of small groups. If I got the leader he/she will bring followers with them.
Q. What did your family think of your beliefs?
A. They loved me, but could not stand my ways of life. My mother was in denial for many years. It hit her hard when I returned from the military with many more tats then I left with and a much more Skinhead disciplined attitude. I had turned very hard. My brother was always arguing with me about my views trying to prove me wrong, I loved the debates and trying to prove my theories.
Q. How did you decide to get out of the racist movement and what steps did you take to do so?
A. It took a good 18 months to fully decide I was out of there! I decided to leave because I was questioning my own beliefs and values. I think I finally grew up and realized this cause I was living for was a farce. Once I did I was sure! I asked my, now, ex-wife to go with me and she refused. That was it for me I packed up my belongings and left Idaho for California, back to my real family. A few days later I went back to Idaho and kidnapped my boys. I wasn't about to let her continue raising my boys into such a dangerous and twisted movement. She did leave the racist movement in 2002
Q. Were you fearful once you left the movement?
A. Yes, for a time I was afraid! I continually looked over my shoulder.
Q. Are you still fearful of any type of retaliation?
A. Not since I was baptized last June. I am more at ease with myself and with God. I know now, when it’s my time to go, I have no say!
Q. What message do you want to get across to youth who are getting swept up into these types of groups/organization?
A. I want kids to realize that people are all human regardless of skin color, religion, sexual preference or whatever. Getting rid of a certain group will never happen first of all and will never take care of any one person’s problem. Hate, violence, gangs, etc. will only create more havoc in our world today. I like to inspire and empower kids to look at the big picture, which was something I should have done.
Q. Any other projects/plans for the future?
A. Yes! Several, in fact. I will continue to teach kids and adults about tolerance. I am writing a book about my experiences. I'm working on putting together educational videos for schools. We are working on that and hope to have something put together in the next year. My ultimate goal is to develop a program that would take high-risk kids and counsel them and help to reform them from the ideology of racism and hate.
Letters About TJ
"On January 19, 1998, the Working Group held a joint session with Valparaiso University in conjunction with the observance of Martin Luther King Day, and over 350 people were in attendance. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, another 150 university students had to be turned away. The presentations…were extremely informative, exciting and well received, and made the event a great success. I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation…to Mr. Leyden, for helping the FBI accomplish the goal of increasing public awareness of the issues surrounding hate crimes and discrimination in the United States."
-Wayne R. Alford
Special Agent in Charge
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigations
"Thank you so very much for scheduling T.J. Leyden's trip to Challenger Middle School and allowing our students to share his powerful, dynamic, and riveting presentation regarding the dangers of hate crime recruitment to our 8th grade students and staff. How could anyone that experiences his memorable presentation not be touched and affected in a very positive way for the rest of their lives?"
Coordinator "Increase the Peace Day"
Challenger Middle School
"I sincerely appreciate your powerful presentation to Fort Bragg's soldiers and leaders on August 4th and 5th highlighting the different forms of Hate Groups and Extremism. The information you presented undoubtedly created an impact on our soldiers at every level. Based on your informative message, leaders are better equipped to educate their soldiers and families. As you made so very clear, we are all at risk in some way. Again, thanks for your outstanding presentation."
-William F. Kernan
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army
HQ XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
"Please convey to T.J. Leyden our profound gratitude for addressing our Command… In the small time allotted this former Marine, he opened the eyes of many of our personnel to the level of intensity Hate groups or 'Separatist groups' place on filling their ranks with innocent children and disillusioned young people of all races. Their goal of creating anarchy within this nation could only be halted when we all understand the methods they are attempting to achieve their goals. We are so armed and are vigilant. For that we are grateful."
Major, U.S. Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
San Diego, California
"On behalf of the Secretary of the Army, I would like to express my appreciation for the instruction you provided members of our agency. The keen insight and analysis you provided to members of the 'Secretary of the Army's Task Force on Extremism' will be of great assistance to our team members as they travel the country in the performance of their duties. The time and energy you displayed are of great benefit to us individually and collectively."
-Larry R. Jordan
Major General, U.S. Army
Department of the Army
Office of the Inspector General
"Just a brief note on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to thank you for your recent presentations. I have received nothing but positive feedback from the many citizens and law enforcement officials you addressed."
-David V. Ries
Special Agent in Charge
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
"…Thank you for your contribution to our … COPPS Problem Analysis Advisory Committee meeting… The topic of Hate Crimes was a timely and much needed area for community discussion. My first hand observations and the positive feedback from my staff were proof of the power and the benefits of your presentation. Please accept my personal appreciation for your willingness to share your knowledge and experiences. I realize that you make this sacrifice at great risk to your own safety for the protection of our children from the indoctrination of hate ideologies. I am pleased that we can work together to protect our community and reduce the negative impacts of hate groups and their violent propensities towards our children of all races."
-William B. Kolender
San Diego County Sheriff's Department
San Diego, California
"On behalf of the Marines and Sailors of 1st Force Service Support Group, I want to thank you for your outstanding presentation on Tolerance and the Dangers of Hatred. I think it was a tremendous success and will support and enhance our mission and our goal of taking care of our troops. Your efforts will have a positive impact on the Marines and Sailors who serve our Country and protect our Nation's value."
Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps
1st Force Service Support Group, MARFORPAC
Camp Pendleton, California
"We want to thank you, on behalf of students and staff here at Palisades Charter High School, for a powerful and thought-provoking presentation. Your high-energy account of your own experience as a Neo-Nazi/White Supremacist held our attention in a way that no 'academic' approach could. Thank you very much for so generously sharing your very personal account with our students. Their lives are most definitely enriched."
Palisades Charter High School and
Math, Science & Technology Magnet
Pacific Palisades, California
Human Relations Coordinator
"On behalf of the Houston Area Hate Crimes Working Group, thank you for your keynote address at the Hate Crimes Summit. We are extremely pleased that you were willing to share your powerful story with us and with the more than 400 teenagers that were in the audience. The way in which the kids flocked to you after your talk is proof that you accomplished your goal and reached many of them."
-Juliette La Chapelle
Assistant United States Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Southern District of Texas
"On behalf of the Shasta County Office of Education, the Shasta County Citizens Against Racism, and the Youth Violence Prevention Council, I would like to express our deepest gratitude for your…presentation… We are in many ways still cleaning up (in a good way) from 'Hurricane T.J.,' which hit our town and has left a lasting positive impact.
It turns out that our earlier reports were wrong, and in fact approximately 150 people were locked outside from the evening presentation at Shasta College. Counting an estimated 550 inside, this makes nearly 700 people hear you. Those lucky enough to get inside were not disappointed, and we have received numerous phone calls, faxes, and personal testimonies about the impact of your presentation(s). It is perhaps not overstepping to call this a landmark event in the history of our county.
I also made a point of going to Crystal Creek Regional Boys Camp and meeting with the 24 youth from there who attended. I asked them a number of specific questions about your presentation, and their answers showed how much they were listening. As young men at a crossroads in their own lives, I also feel it was important for them to see someone had the courage to change, and spoke about how and why he did it. We estimate that there were 300 or more youth in attendance for the evening session, and I know that they likewise took much from the event.
My emphasis on these numbers can perhaps be explained by the fact that we rarely get more than 200 to attend any event we put on here. The fact that a presentation of such quality and importance was seen by so many therefore is doubly impactful."
Shasta County Office of Education
School/Law Enforcement Partnership Cadre
Shasta County Office of Education
Youth Violence Prevention Council
"…Thank you for the excellent job you did in presenting over 3,000 high school and middle school students in Calaveras County in March. Your message and delivery impressed the teachers, students, and parents who attended the evening community presentation… Some requested additional information and thanked us for having you come to alert our students to the threat the skinhead movement presents. The fact that you could hear a pin drop during the one hour and fifteen minute presentation you made for up to 1100 students at a time, speaks of the impact of your message."
-John C. Brophy
County Superintendent of Schools
Calaveras County Office of Education
Angels Camp, California