Von Brunn: More Warning Signs


Easton, Maryland is a summer spa for yuppies from Washington and a popular retirement destination for former law enforcement officials. It is just down the road from St. Michaels, site of Dick Cheney’s country estate and a spread purchased not long ago by Donald Rumsfeld. For some years Easton was also home to James von Brunn, who has now been formally charged with the murder of a security guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday. A look at his history in Easton makes it clear that von Brunn’s racist outbursts had taken on violent overtones before, although locals tended to look the other way.

In the early 1990s, he got a scolding from the local sheriff after defacing library books with anti-Semitic tirades. He got into a confrontation with the editor of the local newspaper over his ideological views (which, as David Corn has reported, were both offensive and bizarre.) And this morning’s edition of the Star Democrat, the Easton paper, describes how von Brunn tried to persuade a local art gallery in St. Michaels to hang his paintings (see a sample of his work here.). At first Jesse Demolli, the gallery owner, agreed. Von Brunn said he was broke, so Demolli gave him some money. The next day von Brunn was back, and upon learning that none of his paintings had sold, he launched into a rant against Jews. Demolli’s wife overheard the conversation, and told her husband to get von Brunn out of the store. Demolli hesitated, arguing that everyone had the right to freedom of speech, but his wife said, he was “a dangerous guy and I needed to kick him out.”
   The Star Democrat described what happened next:

Demolli returned downstairs and told von Brunn that he had changed his mind and von Brunn would have to take his paintings out of the gallery.
“He pulled a gun on me and said it was my lucky day,” Demolli said. Von Brunn then took his paintings and left.
“Demolli said he did not call police or file charges in the incident.
“Looking at his picture on CNN, I feel like it was my lucky day,” Demolli said Wednesday.  

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.