By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Two days before the five were sentenced, Mouse and two other skins who also pled guilty were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders to three years' probation, though they each could have received a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for their activities.
"You had two choices," Mouse says, insisting he never sold his pals out to the Feds. "You could either go down, or you could squeal and get some kind of deal. I chose to keep my mouth shut. I really didn't know anything. That organization had a little saying, which was, 'Don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing,' and that's basically the way it was."
Mouse ended up spending a year in a work-release program near Seagoville, a halfway house for cons released from federal prison whose inmates would tend to the fields and go to their day jobs under supervision. When he was released in 1990--still on probation--Mouse returned to Deep Ellum.
He disavowed his days as a Confederate skinhead, he says, and he told his remaining comrades in the organization that he was finished with them. He wanted out, he says, because the group had become more violent and was in contact with right-wing militia organizations. There also was the specter of getting popped for a probation violation and having to do hard time in a federal penitentiary. Mouse was scared straight--but had to walk a thin line with his white-supremacist pals.
"I was like, 'Well, I'm not going to rat on anyone else, but I'm not going to be a part of it anymore,'" he says, sipping the coffee that has replaced alcohol in his life. "I told them up front, 'This isn't my gig anymore, this isn't for me. I'm out.' And they said, 'OK.' I thought that was it."
Denny Doran, a local photographer and painter who has become one of Mouse's closest friends during the past year, says he and Mouse often talk about Mouse's desertion from the Confederate Hammerskins. Doran was never a skinhead ("I'm what most skinheads would call a nigger-lover," he says), but never begrudged Mouse's past, because, as far as he was concerned, it was a window that had long since shut.
"I think Mouse arrived at a moment in his life where he had a spiritual awakening and he extracted himself from that scene," Doran says. "He was clear about who he was. I don't think he regretted the past, because it's not a powerful relation to the past, and he's a powerful man. Regret's a waste of time."
From 1991 through 1993, Mouse worked and lived at Tigger's tattoo parlor on Commerce Street. He became a scenester again, but this time fighting wasn't his reason to go to clubs. Instead, he became friends with the musicians and learned how to operate their sound gear. Pretty soon, he was a common sight in Deep Ellum--as much a part of the landscape as the clubs and restaurants themselves.
He got jobs working at Trees and the Orbit Room and the Galaxy Club as a doorman--a bouncer--but also as a utility infielder. He would help bands load in and set up before shows and then break down after gigs; he would make sure the sound was right, and provide the bands with any extra amenities they needed before going on.
"I had seen him around as a scenester, and other people introduced him to me and said good things about him," says Kent Wyatt, owner of the Galaxy Club. About two years ago, Wyatt, who had no idea of Mouse's skinhead past, hired him. Most of Deep Ellum never knew Mouse's unsavory past, and only became aware of it after he was attacked.
One of his duties as a club doorman was to keep the crowds in line. Every so often, a Hammerskin, or several, would show up drunk and ready to fight--just like the old days. But this new Mouse would have to keep them cool, tell them not to start any shit in his place. He didn't want them screwing up his job or messing with his friends.
Some in Deep Ellum have linked Mouse's stabbing with a club incident last summer, just days before the attack. That night, several skins came to the Galaxy for a concert by the seminal L.A. punk band Fear (sample lyric: "New York's all right if you're a homosexual") and were, as usual, drunk and pissed-off. Mouse wouldn't tolerate their behavior. Pushing and shoving, he hustled them out of the club.
And, despite Mouse's avowed neutrality toward the Hammerskins, he may have irritated them even more directly. A good friend of Mouse--who asks that his name not be used, since he often runs into the skins and maintains good relations with them--says Mouse helped bring young would-be Nazis and skinheads to "the other side," away from the racist lifestyle.
When he first met Mouse in 1991, this friend says he himself was struggling to escape the skinheads and a drug addiction. In Mouse, he found a sympathetic soul, a man just as tortured by demons that still lingered.