A former Jewish Defense League activist imprisoned for plotting to bomb a Culver City mosque and the field office of Arab American Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Vista) was killed in a federal prison in Phoenix, FBI officials said Saturday.
Earl Krugel, 62, was attacked and killed at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution, said Agent Richard Murray, an FBI spokesman in Phoenix.
A homicide investigation was launched, but Murray declined to provide any details as to how or why Krugel was killed.
Several state and federal law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Saturday that Krugel was fatally struck on the head with a cinderblock by a white supremacist inmate.
Krugel's sister told Associated Press that her brother had been at the facility for only three days.
Mark Werksman, one of Krugel's former attorneys, said Saturday that "Earl Krugel was a man of principle who was devoted to defending the Jewish community and he would defend it through any means lawful and otherwise, and that naturally earned him many enemies."
Krugel, who was serving a 20-year sentence, was arrested Dec. 11, 2001, with JDL leader Irv Rubin, 57, who later committed suicide while in custody, as they were planning to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and Issa's field office in San Diego County. Rubin died in 2002 after he apparently jumped from a second-floor balcony outside his cell at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles.
At his sentencing, Krugel, a dental technician from Reseda, apologized for his actions, telling the court they were "dangerous, wrong and illegal, and for that I am sorry."
U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew assailed him for "promoting hatred in the most vile way," and sentenced him to the maximum penalty.
Krugel has been denounced by his former associates in the JDL for having implicated Rubin in the bombing plot.
A younger JDL member recruited to plant the bombs, Danny Gillis, contacted the FBI before the bombings and wore a concealed recording device during meetings with Krugel and Rubin.
According to a transcript of one meeting, Krugel said the JDL needed to "send a wake-up call" to Arabs by doing something to one of their "filthy mosques." Gillis told the FBI that Krugel told him to scout about a dozen potential targets in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors said Krugel was supposed to help solve the murder of Alex Odeh, Western regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who was killed in 1985 by a bomb that was triggered to explode when he opened the door to his Santa Ana office. To date, no one has been charged in the slaying.
A federal law enforcement official involved in the Odeh investigation said he was unsure what effect Krugel's death would have on finding Odeh's killer. "Once he got there [prison], he might have a change of heart and finally cooperate," the official said. "But we weren't counting on it."
Krugel's wife, Lola, told Associated Press that she believed her husband's conviction was linked to Odeh. "Earl did not deserve what he got. It was all political," she said. "It was all about Alex Odeh, and my husband did not know anything about Alex Odeh. I'm devastated and I'm shocked that the system allowed this to happen."
The Jewish Defense League was founded in 1968 by Meir Kahane, a Brooklyn, N.Y., rabbi who preached that mainstream Jewish organizations had failed to protect America's Jews from pervasive anti-Semitism.
Kahane moved to Israel in 1970 and founded the Kach Party, which called for forcibly removing all Arabs from Israel and the occupied territories. He was assassinated in New York in 1990 by an Arab extremist.
Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.