By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
®LS2¯Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date
Hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate
Woman needs man and man must have his mate
That no one can deny
It's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by
There are two Scandinavian ladies in our story: the timeless heroine of Casablanca was the fictional Ilsa Lund; her modern-day counterpart carries the eerily similar name Ilse Asplund.
The "do or die" of Casablanca was the panorama of World War II, while the "same old story" was the love of Ilsa Lund for two men, one a saloon owner in North Africa and the other her husband in the French resistance.
In the Prescott trial of the five radical environmentalists accused of sabotage by the federal government, the "do or die" cause is environmental concern over uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, ski-resort expansion atop sacred Indian lands and nuclear power in Phoenix. Like the movie, however, the issues are overshadowed by a woman's relationship with two men.
Casablanca showed us people at their noble, heart-wrenching best.
Everytime you see Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains on that rain-slicked tarmac with the plane carrying Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid ascending towards Lisbon, you are mesmerized.
Ilsa departs Casablanca with the virtuous, wavy-haired weenie, that Frenchman Victor Laszlo, while Rick Blaine, with his gin joint, white dinner jacket, and stack of chips--the heartbeat of American cool--is left behind to plug Major Heinrich Strassen.
Well, that's Hollywood.
In real life, Rick gets the girl. No right bookie would cover any action against him.
In the Prescott courthouse, paid FBI informant Ron Frazier portrayed himself from the witness stand as virtuous and soft-spoken. He won scholarships to Yavapai College. He was an honors student in welding. Though Anglo, he joined the Native American Club to befriend Indians. On his vacation, he went home to visit his folks. He was an accomplished artist, a sensitive human being and a lover of children.
He was a weenie.
And like Victor Laszlo, Ron Frazier fell for a Nordic blond.
At the time, Ilse Asplund was managing a trailer park in Prescott. As her marriage disintegrated, she noticed Ron Frazier, who had rented a mobile home. He was charming and gentle with her two children.
"When I found that she was having marital problems with her husband, I decided to tell her of my feelings towards her as a friend," said Frazier in court. "I let her know that she didn't have to feel that nobody cared. I did, very much. I saw her as a very close friend."
Ilse and her kids went camping, and Ron Frazier joined the outing. Ilse and Ron became intimate.
During the same period of time, Ron Frazier was answering questions from a new friend, Mark Davis, about how a person might damage industrial cables. As these discussions progressed, Frazier taught his pupil rudimentary lessons in shade-tree welding.
In September of 1987, one month after the camping trip with Ilse, Ron Frazier drove Mark Davis into Phoenix to purchase welding equipment.
According to Frazier's testimony, Davis said he intended to monkey wrench the Fairfield Snow Bowl near Flagstaff by sabotaging the ski-lift pylons with a cutting torch.
While Frazier, an experienced welder, was instructing Davis on how to cut through metal, he also dreamed of deepening his attachment to Ilse Asplund.
"I wanted something of an emotional commitment," explained Frazier under oath. He added--with Victor Laszlo sensitivity--that he didn't feel comfortable sneaking around Ilse's husband.
Ron Frazier's infatuation with Ilse proved hopeless; Asplund had met her Bogie, Mark Davis. And in Prescott, Arizona, Bogie gets the girl.
Davis is built like a juke box, but it is not his tree-stump squareness that first squeezes your eye. He gives the impression that his heart pounds at the same rate as a hummingbird's, so intense is his energy. At parade rest, Mark conveys the idling intensity of a modified Peterbilt about to charge out of the blocks at a tractor pull.
Unlike Ron Frazier, Mark Davis did not present himself as the boy in the trailer next door. Davis was a rogue with wild dreams of crippling the developers and miners who were clawing up the soil in northern Arizona.
He was Rick of the north woods.
In October of '87 ski-lift pylons at the Snow Bowl were attacked, and Mark Davis took credit.
Ilse was unable to resist. She believed as vehemently in the sacredness of Mother Earth as the movie heroine believed in the French underground. In Mark Davis, she'd found a man who not only talked the talk, but a man of action who walked the walk.
The arrest of all of the defendants in this prosecution was not the result of sterling investigative work by the FBI; this trial came about because of a tragic lapse in judgment regarding child care.
Ilse Asplund asked Ron Frazier to baby-sit her children while she went out with Mark Davis.
And noble Victor Laszlo agreed to do it.
"There was one night they came home and I was asleep [after an evening spent baby-sitting] on the couch," said Frazier. "They put me in the back room [so they could take the couch]."
Does this strike anyone else as a less-than-perfect scenario?
Davis and Asplund forgot piano man Dooley Wilson's wisdom in Casablanca: "When hearts are full of passion, jealousy and hate . . . the fundamental things apply."
You don't use an old lover to baby-sit your children while you step out with the Hootchie Cootchie Man. That's about as fundamental as it gets.
Ron Frazier might have been, in his own mind, as gallant as Victor Laszlo, but he wasn't that French.
Ilse Asplund and Mark Davis should have known better.
One of Asplund's degrees is in counseling. Davis is the co-founder of the Phoenix drug counseling center Terros. He once received a citation from the mayor of Phoenix for talking a man out of a suicide. Davis is someone who prides himself on being able to climb into people's heads.
Ron Frazier, torch-carrying baby-sitter? Bummer.
Asked during an interview about her choice for domestic help, Asplund was a bit defensive.
"Ron wanted our relationship to be significant and emotionally important in a way that it wasn't," explained Asplund. "That business about not wanting to sneak around on Ken [her ex-husband] is not true. Ron's the biggest sneak there is. Look at all the time he spent sneaking around for the FBI . . . . When it [the affair with Frazier] ended, it seemed like a relief on both our parts."
But as she considered Frazier's role as nanny she admitted, "Okay, I can't defend it."
If it cannot be defended, perhaps it must be forgiven.
Asplund, Frazier, and Davis were part of a circle of people who, to one extent or another, had redefined the social and political boundaries of their lives. And in Prescott, radical environmentalists, vegetarians, New Age metaphysicists, and those engaged in social experimentation and higher consciousness have an intricate support system.
In Prescott, father does not know best and the fundamental things do not always apply. Or so our trio thought. On top of that, this was a remarkable period in the lives of Ilse Asplund and Mark Davis. Liberated from a bad marriage, Asplund was politically active on the environmental front and falling in love with Mark Davis.
According to Frazier's testimony, Davis was the spark plug of a newly emerging network of radical environmentalists and had personally sabotaged, if only slightly, an intrusive ski resort.
Mark Davis was Commander Testosterone of the pines, the man singularly responsible for the elevated pheromone count in Prescott. By contrast, Ron Frazier had endured, in the very same time period, one humiliation after another until he began to resemble a patient who'd had surgery for a radical mojo-ectomy.
In October, the very month Davis was monkey wrenching the Snow Bowl, Frazier was fired by Jody Skjei for being neurotic and incompetent, though that wasn't the way he saw it.
"I requested of Jody not to work so hard," said Frazier in court. "She had hired a young man to do some welding and that was the end of my employment . . . . Basically I was reviewing all of the faults I perceived in our employer-employee relationship."
Frazier's review suffered a setback.
"I got stopped by a Prescott policeman who said Jody had grounds to file telephone harassment charges [against Frazier] . . . I realized telephone harassment wasn't going to work so I turned her into the city on welding violations; I threatened to call the fire marshal to report a fire hazard."
On January 11, 1988, Mark paid a visit to Ron on behalf of Jody Skjei.
"He knew of my contacts with the city's planning and zoning department and said it had to stop," testified Frazier. "He said he was involved in a paramilitary-type group. He saw himself as a lieutenant, that I was caught in the middle. Both sides would exert great influence to get people to join one side or the other, and I should remain neutral."
Even in the addled mind of Ron Frazier, one of the fundamental things did apply; he told the courtroom he feared Davis would beat the living Jesus out of him.
By the time of this January conversation, Frazier also blamed Davis for his problems with Skjei. Based upon a discussion with Ilse in December, Frazier deduced that Mark "encouraged her [Jody's] resentment of me, her suspicion of me."
On that fateful January 11 when Davis visited Frazier, Ron had lost his job at Skjei's, lost the Nordic princess of his dreams and baby-sat for Prescott's environmental homecoming king and queen. By January 11, when Mark Davis bounded through the door, Ron Frazier had had all of Mr. Wonderful that he could take.
"I waited five to ten minutes after Mark Davis left, drove to Phoenix and called the FBI," swore Frazier in court.
Frazier explained becoming a snitch by telling the jury that he was concerned for the safety of Ilse and her two children in the war that Davis was waging against the forces of development. As the strains of Casablanca's "Marseilles" rose in Frazier's mind, he portrayed his trip to the FBI office as the journey of a cavalier concerned for the safety of women and children.
In reality, he was a eunuch who wanted the FBI to equip him with a set of cojones that would give him the power to extract the most horrible sort of revenge upon the woman who'd rejected him and then scalded his ego by falling in love with Mark Davis.
My god, couldn't she see that Mark Davis was a zero, a hippie until I taught him how to use the cutting torch he carried up to the Snow Bowl? Ilse, can't you see that? No . . . she's too busy out there on the couch playing kissy face with him to see anything. Ilse doesn't understand, none of them understand, that, I, Ron Frazier, am nobody's au pair!
It is impossible to imagine Ron Frazier's thoughts without having your perception of reality jangled.
Over the past week, he has said so many things that are a half a bubble off plumb--"I was reviewing all of the faults I perceived in our employer-employee relationship"--that observers cannot help but marvel over his grip on the world around him.
When Frazier's attorney appeared in the gallery at the end of the week, one of the first questions he was asked was whether or not his client was sane. Though the woman making the inquiry did so rhetorically, the probe was nonetheless pointed.
The image of Frazier was not improved when his own handlers, the prosecutors, filed a motion with Judge Robert Broomfield on Friday seeking to keep the background of the state's star witness out of the courtroom and away from the jurors.
Roslyn Moore-Silver revealed in the motion that Frazier used and sold marijuana and LSD for nearly twenty years. His most serious outburst included firing a gun at another person. The prosecutor also wrote that she didn't want it known that Frazier had testified on behalf of a man charged with possession of pornography even though the charges were eventually dismissed. Though unsubstantiated, Moore-Silver also admitted there were allegations of child abuse linked to Frazier as well as abuse of a sheep dog. On a more upbeat note, she told the judge that despite all of the smoke that swirled around her boy, the only fire was a single bust for peyote.
With visions of Mike Black cross-examining her witness--Tell us about the sheep dog, Mr. Frazier; did she reject your advances, too?--Roslyn Moore-Silver had to hold her breath waiting for the judge's ruling on her motion.
In the meantime, Ron Frazier continued to testify.
In the past week, Frazier's behavior on the witness stand has considerably toned down. His responses are given in a subdued monotone meant to suggest to observers that Thorazine has a place in the courtroom.
Prosecutor Tom Simon, new to the U.S. Attorney's Office, has been assigned this witness.
On July 10, as Frazier testified, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published an article claiming that the very sound of Mary Hart's voice (co-host of Entertainment Tonight) had induced an epileptic seizure in a woman. Dr. Venkat Ramani, professor of neurology at Albany Medical College, claimed that the pitch of Hart's voice triggered the violent reaction in his patient.
Watching Simon elicit testimony, you can see this principle in reverse.
Unlike the nasal Moore-Silver, whose voice could precipitate convulsions in the host of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Simon has the soothing, yogurt-coated voice of an Iowa undertaker. His words are administered like aural prozac to a witness whose cerebral transmitters are liable to light up like cranial popcorn without warning.
Even with the gentle hand of Tom Simon, the prosecution never knows what it's going to get from Ron Frazier in response to the simplest questions.
Last Thursday, there was testimony that Mark Davis had told Ron Frazier that a part of Frazier's brain "was not energized."
Simon asked his witness what that meant.
"I took that to mean that I did not know how to telepathically obey his orders," replied Frazier.
Telepathically obey his orders?
Time out. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I want a show of hands. Are we in a United States federal courtroom or the set of Star Trek?
Telepathically obey his orders?
Hey Ron, it's me, your weekly columnist. I'm beaming you my mind-control waves. Send me another letter. The people want to know what you are thinking. Your eyelids are growing heavy. You are feeling sleepy. You have an overwhelming urge to write to me again and this time you will explain how it is that the government of this nation spent millions of taxpayer dollars to end up with you, a tightly-wrapped holiday fruitcake from Knott's Berry Farms, as its star witness. I'll protect your confidentiality. Trust me, Ron. Why does Roslyn Moore-Silver wear those Day-Glo wrist watches with the interchangeable color bands to match her vivid outfits? Ron, when I snap my mind-control waves you'll begin to come out of your trance. You'll feel refreshed, Ron. And you're going to notice something. Roslyn Moore-Silver is dreaming about going to a disco, with you, her special witness. Trust me, Ron. I've seen her staring at you. She can't get over the way you say the things you do. Trust me, Ron. She wants to dance. "Stayin' alive, stayin' alive, ah-ha-ha-ha stayin' aliiiive!"
Do not blame journalists for lapses in their concentration or wandering flights of fantasy; much of what Ron Frazier said, or the way that he said it, sounded like a message out of a Dungeons and Dragons fortune cookie.
This surrealism was eased with the introduction into the courtroom of taped conversations between Frazier and various defendants, primarily Mark Davis.
The witness's credibility took a back seat to the documentary nature of the recorded dialogue.
In the very first tape played, from a Davis-Frazier conversation on February 5, 1988, the problem in this case surfaced.
Mark Davis immediately volunteered that he was involved in the first attack on the Snow Bowl and that he'd like to hit the ski resort again.
With his confession to Frazier, Davis confirmed his role in the malicious mischief, though, at that point, that is about all that he was guilty of. The question of how that act of vandalism became a federal case, literally and figuratively, was also suggested in this first tape.
Davis told Frazier, "The next project is going to involve thermite."
Davis also made it plain that he was virtually ignorant about what thermite is or how to get it. After saying that thermite was aluminum powder and iron oxide, he added, "And I don't, that's all I know. But I don't know how to put it together. But the thing, the next thing that's going to be done is going to involve, um, setting thermite packages around the legs of something."
Frazier quickly volunteered to see where thermite was sold, comb through various catalogues and check prices through 800 numbers.
Davis leapt at the bait at the same time that he reiterated his unfamiliarity with thermite. For Davis, the metal melting explosive was a pipe dream.
"If you can do that [locate and price thermite], that would be very useful. 'Cause I am not, don't have the technical expertise to even fake the questions correctly."
For well over a year, Davis and Frazier discussed the thermite. Always Davis was curious but ignorant. Always Frazier acted as technical expert furthering the fantasies of thermite but never quite delivering the product. After hundreds of hours devoted to the discussion of thermite, Davis and Frazier resembled a wildly spinning couple upon the dance floor--often, you can no longer tell who was leading whom.
Was Mark Davis a terrorist, as the government charges, or was he coaxed down the path that led to this federal courthouse?
In her opening statement, prosecutor Roslyn Moore-Silver anticipated defense arguments and denied that there was ever an overall plan to get Earth First! at all costs. She made a point of informing the jury that FBI agent Michael Fain was only sent in to infiltrate the environmentalists when it appeared, months into the investigation, that Ron Frazier was no longer trusted.
Five weeks into the trial, however, the prosecution's position on this fundamental question of entrapment was eroded by witness Frazier.
In response to an innocuous question by Assistant U.S. Attorney Simon regarding the tapes, Frazier went off on a tangent and said that he was instructed at his very first meeting with the government to look for an opening where he might be able to introduce an undercover FBI agent into Earth First!.
As the tapes unwound in the courtroom, there were moments when the conversations were both naive and alarming.
Davis wanted to get his hands on dynamite and Frazier allowed as how he knows where to get it. Davis, of course, had no money for dynamite.
"I'd rather steal it," Davis told Frazier. "But not from anybody, not from a human. I'd rather steal it from a corporation . . . If I steal, I want to steal from a crook. A corporation. I'm real rigid about that . . . If worse comes to worst, we could just steal it and send him the money [for the dynamite]."
In the same March 23, 1988, conversation, Davis explained why he needed dynamite.
"I'm gonna blow the Canyon Mine and knock over the head frame," he told Frazier.
Complications were also considered:
Davis: "I want to see it go down."
Frazier: "You want to see it?"
Davis: "I want to see it go down, because I want to make sure nobody walks out of that trailer. If somebody walks out of that trailer, I'm going to yell at them."
Davis: "And tell them to get back inside, there's about to be an explosion."
Davis: "'Cause I don't want anyone to get hurt."
Davis also shared with Frazier pointers on how to keep from getting caught, specifically keeping his home free of incriminating evidence.
"What I do is I clean my house out of everything after I do a strike, before I do a strike. No dope. You know, no Earth First! journals. Nothing. You don't have to do that if you don't want to. Just telling you what I do . . . And then I don't talk about it on the phone or nothing for a couple of months."
Later, in the same conversation, Davis offered his considered opinion on his adversaries.
"Unless we fuck up, and I haven't ever fucked up, or leave some clue that would point to Prescott, they literally have the entire western United States to look at for who did it," said Davis. "Usually cops aren't really very smart. The only way they ever catch anybody, generally speaking, is if someone talks."
At that precise moment, FBI agents Tollhurst and Bailey jumped from the prosecutor's table, leapt into the air, and exchanged vigorous high-fives. They then raced around the courtroom with index fingers raised and proclaimed to the jury, "We're number one."
Actually, they didn't do that.
The FBI contented itself knowing that the agency had pulled a small trailer of damning, if circumstantial, evidence out of Davis' apartment including a typewriter whose letters matched identically with those found on a note in Davis' home.
Referring to the attack on Palo Verde and other nuclear facilities that never materialized, the note read: "We are running out of time. Some power plant poles attending certin [sic} nuxlear [sic] installations in the Western United States were cut down last night. EMETIC accepts full responsibility."
Could Mark Davis and his colleagues ever have launched an assault on Palo Verde without the FBI's assistance?
The tapes played last week generated mixed signals.
On January 3, 1989, one week shy of a year after Ron Frazier went to the FBI, he taped a conversation with Davis. The two men were still discussing the nonexistent thermite. But something had changed.
Energy Fuels Nuclear's uranium operation at Canyon Mine was sabotaged on September 25, 1988, and 29 power poles were cut.
The FBI knew about this strike and let it occur.
What they did not know in advance was that as Canyon Mine was struck on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, a simultaneous attack by environmentalists happened at an Energy Fuels Nuclear facility on the North Rim.
Davis related what happened at Canyon Mine to Frazier.
"Yeah, the power went out when we cut a bunch of the poles about three-quarters of a way through . . . I got down on the ground with a hacksaw and cut the one that was going to the ground. That fell over. The whole thing fell over and the lines shorted . . . those lights they have out there flared . . . She said it looked like an atomic-bomb explosion. Like this huge flare of light."
In the very same conversation, Davis gave the government ominous information.
"We've got a real, real, real, major stuff happening in spring. That's what I need to be able to use the thermite for would be simultaneous strikes all over the West Coast."
Eleven days later, on January 14, 1989, Frazier recorded a conversation with Davis and this time the FBI had Frazier volunteer that he'd found a formula for thermite. Better than that, Frazier said he had a contact who might be useful.
"I do have access to, uh, little thermite charges . . . grenades. Little thermite grenades."
Davis could not believe his good luck.
"Oh, you do? Grenades?"
Davis told Frazier he had people lined up to hit five nuclear-power plants in the West.
Both sides were posturing at that stage.
Frazier continued to up the ante, agreeing to supply incendiary devices while Davis claimed that he could put together the sort of coordinated attack upon nuclear-power plant transmission lines that the writers on Mission Impossible would have considered too unlikely for a script.
Davis even fantasized about launching this strike during President Bush's budget speech, a talk that Davis predicted would ignore the issue of nuclear-waste disposal.
By linking sabotage to Bush's speech, Davis figured, "We look like heroes riding to the rescue rather than terrorists."
As often as defense attorneys portray their hapless clients as "Moe, Larry, and Curly attempting to build a better mousetrap with a monkey wrench," there is another version of this scenario.
Before the trial commenced, Roslyn Moore-Silver told me emphatically that the defendants "are not harmless."
A former prosecutor who had this case before entering private practice, Ivan Mathew, made the point that when the government learned that there was a plan afoot to attack nuclear installations, it would have been irresponsible not to get to the bottom of the alleged conspiracy. And on January 3 when Davis told Frazier that there would be coordinated attacks all over the West Coast, Davis had already taken credit for the two-pronged sabotage of Energy Fuels Nuclear at the Grand Canyon.
Although the FBI knew about and let the vandalism at Canyon Mine occur, this incident also demonstrated that the environmentalists were capable of a certain level of sophisticated syncronization.
All Ron Frazier had to do, with the FBI's prodding, was offer up thermite grenades.
Actually that wasn't all Ron Frazier had to do.
One of the last tapes the jury heard last week was of a conversation Frazier recorded with Ilse Asplund.
Like Bogie in Casablanca, Mark Davis has decided to send his Ilse away.
On February 14, 1989, Asplund tells Frazier how crushed she is over this impending separation.
"This is realy sad," Ilse told Frazier. "This is just breaking my heart. This is real sad. We're not going to live together pretty soon so that I won't be in the line of fire . . . you know, it's been a reality for him to do what he needs to do. He's got to, like, not have a place that's held back to try to protect me."
How did Frazier respond to the torment of the woman he cared for so deeply?
He tried to set her up.
As Ilse poured out her soul, Ron interrupted her with a series of questions: "Mark was telling me about the cutting those poles up there at the Canyon Mine. Pretty, pretty neat little scam? Were you in on that?"
"So does Mark pretty well tell you what's going on?"
"I remember, oh more than a year ago you were so excited about the prospect of being able to do things. So you've been able to get in and do some of that . . . ?
"But it sounds like you, I mean, you've been doing enough stuff out there in the field that you can take quite a bit of satisfaction from that. I felt kind of frustrated myself . . . not doing."
Actually, Ilse Asplund hadn't done much of anything at all, as her answer made clear.
She hadn't been nearly as busy as her frustrated suitor, the noble lover of sheep dogs, Ron Frazier.
To be continued
While Frazier was instructing Davis on how to cut through metal, he also dreamed of deepening his attachment to Ilse Asplund.
Davis is built like a jukebox but it is not his tree-stump squareness that first squeezes your eye.
You don't use an old lover to baby-sit your children while you step out with the Hootchie Cootchie Man.
Mark Davis was Commander Testosterone of the pines, the man singularly responsible for the elevated pheromone count in Prescott.
Simon's words are administered like aural prozac to a witness whose cerebral transmitters are liable to light up like cranial popcorn.
Why does Roslyn Moore-Silver wear those Day-Glo wrist watches with the interchangeable color bands to match her vivid outfits?
Was Mark Davis a terrorist, as the government charges, or was he coaxed down the path that led to this federal courthouse?
"I do have access to, uh, little thermite charges . . . grenades. Little thermite grenades.