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Massachusetts Lawyer Gives To Hate Groups

By Theo Emery
Associated Press Writer

DUXBURY, Mass. -- Richard J. Cotter Jr. seemed to be a member in good standing of the Boston establishment: Phillips Exeter, Harvard and then Harvard Law, service in World War II, a stint as an assistant state attorney general, then private practice.

At his death, though, it became clear that his politics were way out on the fringe.

Shocking some of those who knew him, the lawyer left more than $650,000 of his $5.4 million estate to white supremacist and anti-Semitic causes and figures, including the author of the book The Hitler We Loved and Why.

Robert Leikind, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League in Boston, called the will "a startling legacy." "These are not groups to be trifled with. They can be extreme, and they can be not only dangerous, but inspire people in the most fundamentally undemocratic principles," he said.

Cotter's executor, friend and legal colleague, Donald O. Smith, said he was amazed.

"I think Cotter's concerns, perhaps with regard to communism, may have led him into a position sympathetic to people with an affiliation for the Nazi regime. Having never discussed any of this with Mr. Cotter, you should probably understand that I'm just speculating," Smith said.

Kathleen Pyle, who cared for Cotter's beloved horses for 23 years, said she cannot square his bequests with the man she knew. "He very much loved nature, and animals, and that's where he got most of his happiness. He kept a lot to himself," she said.

Cotter's niece, Diana Moran Chabrier, said, however, she was not surprised.

"He was a person who is perhaps an extreme example of a person who showed different faces to different parts of his life. He kept extreme right-wing propaganda on the bookshelves of his house. It was not something he tried to keep secret," Chabrier said.

Cotter was 81 when he died in March 1999. His only marriage ended in divorce, and he had no children.

The son of a prominent insurance lawyer, Cotter moved comfortably in Boston society. At Harvard he was a friend of John F. Kennedy. He had an unremarkable career in private practice, mostly as a trial lawyer litigating business matters.

ZündelHe made a secret of nothing in his will.

He left money to care for his horses, to friends, to his niece, to a group that promotes the legacy of a children's author and to a nursing care organization.

But also among the beneficiaries was William L. Pierce, the white-supremacist author of The Turner Diaries, a novel that prosecutors said inspired Timothy McVeigh's 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

Pierce, who got $25,000 in the will, said he knew Cotter for about 30 years but would give no other details. "Mr. Cotter was a gentleman and a friend, and that's all I really have to say," Pierce said in a telephone interview from his West Virginia home.

Cotter left about half a million dollars to James K. Warner, leader of the Louisiana-based New Christian Crusade Church. Warner is a founding member of the American Nazi Party who calls Jews "sons of the Devil" and is a close friend of former KKK leader David Duke, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Warner said Cotter joined his group in the mid-1980s. The two held meetings in Massachusetts. He said the millionaire knew what he was doing in supporting the organizations he did.

"He didn't pick our names out of a phone directory," Warner said.

Cotter also left $100,000 to Ernst Zündel (picture), a Canadian who in the early 1970s wrote pro-Nazi materials under the name Christof Friedrich, including the book The Hitler We Loved and Why. Zündel did not return a call to his Toronto office.

© Copyright 2001 Associated Press.

Website comment: Among the groups listed in this article: the Anti Defamation League. . .

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