A screenshot of footage showing Robert Wilson speaking to CBS 8 reporter, David Gotfredson, outside a San Diego courthouse on Dec. 27, 2021.

Why this matters

Networks of hate groups with roots in California extend around the globe and have far-reaching impacts on marginalized communities.

On Thursday, former Chula Vista resident Robert Wilson was found guilty of projecting antisemitic text onto the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and sentenced to two months in prison.

Wilson already spent three months in jail while awaiting trial and won’t have to serve any additional time.

A Netherlands judge concluded that Wilson, a Polish Canadian who lived in San Diego County for several years, had used a laser projector to display a message onto the exterior of the building on Feb. 6.

The text said in English and Dutch: “ANN FRANK INVENTOR OF THE BALLPOINT PEN.” It references a Holocaust denying conspiracy theory claiming that Anne Frank could not have penned her diary because it was written in ballpoint pen, which was not widely used until after World War II. This claim has been disproven by scholars and researchers.

The judge found Wilson guilty of coercing the employees working at the Anne Frank House by forcing them to tolerate a message that violated acceptable societal boundaries.

Wilson is a public facing member of the Goyim Defense League, an antisemitic hate group that spreads false and hateful messages about Jewish people online and through in-person bannering and flyering events. The group, founded in California, was responsible for hundreds of antisemitic incidents across the U.S. last year.

A screenshot of footage captured by CBS8 showing Robert Wilson at his San Diego arraignment on Dec. 27, 2021. Wilson was accused of assaulting his neighbor while yelling homophobic slurs.

After the laser projection appeared on the Anne Frank House, a video of the incident surfaced in right-wing channels on Telegram and GAB. It was set to music containing offensive language toward Jewish people.

The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service charged Wilson with additional counts of making an insulting video about Jewish people. However, the judge said it could not be proven that Wilson was the one who posted the video online, even though the evidence provided by prosecutors strongly suggests Wilson helped produce the video.

Prosecutors had requested a six-month prison sentence for Wilson along with a prohibition on Wilson entering Amsterdam for five years.

Willem Wagenaar, a right-wing extremism researcher for the Anne Frank House, said the prosecution’s request was “extraordinary.”

“In other court cases on antisemitic hate speech or Holocaust denial, we saw sentences of community work or fines, but not prison time,” he said.

The judge declined to prohibit Wilson from returning to the region, arguing that Wilson was living in Poland and was unlikely to commit another offense in Amsterdam.

A screenshot from a video showing Polish authorities speaking with former San Diego resident Robert Wilson at his home in Poland on Apr. 25, 2023.

inewsource has followed Wilson’s activities around the world since he left San Diego County. In 2021, Wilson was charged with a hate crime in San Diego for allegedly assaulting his neighbor while yelling homophobic slurs at him. He fled the country before his trial and moved to Poland. Since living there, an image went viral on the internet showing Wilson holding up an antisemitic sign outside the Auschwitz memorial.

During his trial in the Anne Frank House case, Wilson admitted that he was visiting Amsterdam with his partner and child at the time of the laser projection, but he denied being responsible for the incident.

Wilson was extradited from Poland in August to face the charges in the Netherlands.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has declined to say whether or not it is attempting to extradite Wilson back to San Diego to prosecute him.

Before the ruling was announced, Wagenaar said the Anne Frank House case was difficult for the prosecutors to prove, but he hoped for a guilty verdict.

“I hope that there will be a sentence that has a preventive aspect, as in the deterrence of other extremists that might think laser projection on buildings or monuments related to the Holocaust is a good idea.”

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Jill Castellano is a former investigative data coordinator for inewsource. When she's not deep in a spreadsheet or holed up reporting and writing her next story, she's probably hiking, running or rock climbing. She also loves playing board games and discussing the latest chapters with her book club....