Couple accused in Osceola hate group case speaks to WFTV

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - An Osceola County couple at the center of an investigation involving the American Front white supremacist group revealed to WFTV they want to sue the agencies that arrested them, possibly for discrimination.

The charges against the Jennifer and Mark McGowan were dropped, even though investigators believed their group was training for a race war and plotting an attack on Orlando City Hall.

Jennifer McGowan was accused of being the treasurer of American Front, saying she collected money to fund violence.

But on Monday, McGowan told WFTV she used the money for trips to the grocery store to buy things like plates and drinks -- anything the group needed for a barbecue.

"Everybody that knows us knows we're not violent people," she said.

The McGowans have been married for four years and have a 2-year-old daughter together. They also have a strong belief system some might find offensive.

"The whole idea was about love. Love your race, love your culture, love your heritage," Jennifer McGowan said.

The McGowans admit they believe in empowering the white race, and that's why Mark McGowan said he became vice president of American Front, a group he insists does not promote violence.

"It's just a group to say, 'Hey, look, we're trying to save the European culture,'" he said.

The McGowans would visit a property in rural Osceola County with other members of the group. They were later arrested along with other members and accused of plotting a race war.

"I couldn't believe this was happening. I've never done anything wrong," said Jennifer McGowan.

The couple was held in jail for weeks, and Jennifer McGowan lost her job as a court reporter.

"Everywhere we go, people looking at us, you know," she said. "They've smeared our names, saying we're racists."

The McGowans said they're now going to sue the agencies involved in the case, and they're even exploring a discrimination suit, saying they were targeted because of their beliefs.

Channel 9's legal analyst doesn't think the argument would hold in court.

"Just because you're white and have a certain belief system that may be even unpopular does not put you in a protected class. Good luck with that argument," said analyst Bill Sheaffer.

But the McGowans said they are moving forward so that no one else who shares their beliefs is targeted.

"We're just proud of our heritage and our culture, and we have every right to be," said Jennifer McGowan.

WFTV learned Monday that another member of the group, Diane Stevens, also had charges dropped against her. There's no word if she plans to sue as well.