A felon who attracted federal attention for his contact with a jailed white supremacist leader is part of an ongoing investigation that includes a series of raids at Spokane County locations Tuesday.
Wayde Lynn Kurt, 52, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to a federal weapons charge alleging he unlawfully possessed two assault rifles and a handgun as a felon on Aug. 21. He was arrested Monday in an investigation authorities with the FBI declined to discuss.
U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno warned Kurt Tuesday against improper use of the jail phone after Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks said a man tried removing evidence from a property being searched by the FBI after Kurt called him from jail.
That man, Lincoln Hoyt, was not arrested and could not be reached for comment. Hicks said the FBI recovered the evidence, but he declined to elaborate.
Kurt was on federal probation for a weapons conviction until May 2009. One month before his release, he faced reprimand for being in contact with Keegan Van Tuyl, a jailed white supremacist who was sent back to federal prison in January after a judge ruled he’d violated his probation by contacting white supremacists and leaving the state to attend a skinhead meeting in North Idaho.
Kurt has a lengthy criminal record and long history of challenging government orders, according to online federal court records. When federal authorities tried to retrieve a tracking device placed on his Plymouth Voyager in 2004, they discovered it was in his glove compartment.
One of Kurt’s co-workers at Goodwill Industries told federal agents Kurt was irate when he showed him the device and said “if they want war, they’re going to get one. I know where there are weapons, explosives and airplane. I’m going to make a fireball out of Spokane,” according to court documents.
Federal authorities said they placed the device while they were investigating him for operating an illegal printing press. Kurt has a conviction for counterfeiting U.S. currency, according to court documents.
The case ended with Kurt being sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and three years’ probation for theft of government property.
Prosecutors said Kurt’s lengthy criminal history also includes a previous conviction for felon in possession of a firearm and failure to appear in court.
Hicks said Kurt has tried fleeing law enforcement “on a number of occasions.”
The federal public defender’s office represented Kurt on Tuesday, but he may get outside counsel because he’s contested his public defender’s competency while appealing his last conviction, according to court testimony.
A hearing is set for Thursday to determine if Kurt will be granted bail. His charge, felon in possession of a firearm, carries a maximum 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A grand jury indictment filed Aug. 24 but sealed until Kurt’s arrest Monday accuses him of unlawfully possessing a 9 mm handgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle on Aug. 21.
Kurt was booked into the Spokane County Jail on Monday night.
Federal agents raided several properties early Tuesday in what Frank Harrill, agent in charge at the FBI’s Spokane office, said were connected to two cases, one involving Kurt.
Kurt’s connection to Van Tuyl, who co-founded two white supremacy groups and recruited members in federal prison, isn’t clear. Court documents filed April 16, 2009, say the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office recorded a phone call Van Tuyl, a jail inmate, had with Kurt on April 3, 2009. Kurt acknowledged speaking to Van Tuyl and said he knew he didn’t have permission to speak with him.
“As an intermediate sanction, the undersigned officer verbally reprimanded Mr. Kurt and again directed him to not associate with Mr. Van Tuyl,” according to a report by U.S. Probation Officer Samuel Najera. “Mr. Kurt acknowledged this directive and stated he would not be associating with Mr. Van Tuyl anymore.”
Van Tuyl and other members of the groups were involved in several racist activities in 2008 and 2009 in the Spokane area and North Idaho, federal prosecutors said at his January court hearing.