It seems like a fairly straightforward case. On October 26, during a speech by Nazi historian David Irving at the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan, a man named Christopher Nachtman invited another member of the audience, John Kopko, outside the banquet hall to settle a disagreement. Nachtman pulled a knife and stabbed Kopko, who barely survived.
Police recovered the knife. There were a bunch of witnesses, along with a living victim. Simple case, right?
Apparently not. More than four months have passed since the stabbing, and still no one has been charged. But don't blame the police. Blame the witnesses -- and the combatants.
I just got off the phone with Manalapan Police Chief Clay Walker and asked him why the case is still under investigation.
"The reason for that is, at first, the participants [in the knife fight] and the witnesses didn't want to cooperate with the interview process," Walker says.
Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that a neo-Nazi audience would want to keep its conflicts out of the legal realm. This crowd tends not to trust anyone who works for the government, even a Manalapan cop who only has a couple of simple questions: Who stabbed whom? And did he act in self-defense?
Walker says that about three weeks after the incident, the witnesses suddenly had a "change of heart," but this time they all hired attorneys. Then interviews needed to be scheduled -- and all it takes is one busy lawyer to hold up the investigation.
For a group that likes to traffic in conspiracy theories, there are plenty to choose from. According to one plot line, Nachtman's attack was an outgrowth of a rivalry between two white supremacist groups, the Hammerskins and Volksfront. An anti-fascist group hacked into the websites and email account of the event's speaker, David Irving, revealing that he had invited Nachtman to the event personally, contrary to his claims to the Palm Beach Post.
Walker estimates it'll be a few more weeks before his department hands the case over to the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office. In the meantime, Walker's officers have another high-profile case on their hands. They're investigating a guest of boxing promoter Don King based on a report that that guest, who was staying at a home King owns in Manalapan, raped a 13-year-old runaway.