Joseph Moore’s undercover work exposed murder plots and identified white supremacists in law enforcement. AP’s reporting led him to tell his story publicly for the first time.
AP investigative reporter Jason Dearen received a curious email on Dec. 1. The email was from a strange name with the subject line: “This is Joseph Moore.”
Moore was the main character in a story Dearen had written a few months earlier: An FBI undercover informant who had infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Florida and disrupted a murder plot by three klansmen who worked as prison guards. They’d plotted the murder of a Black former inmate. Moore’s work had stopped them.
Dearen had reported that story based on a couple of hours of secret FBI recordings he’d received, but he had not been able to find Moore. Now, it seemed, Moore was finding him.
“I do not go by Joseph Moore anymore, but that was me. There is and was much more going on in the white supremacist circles than I could discuss at the time,” Moore wrote. “I want to give you the information I have in case something happens to me and I can no longer speak.”
After forwarding the email to his editor, Alison Kodjak, with the comment “Oh, s--t,” he called the number the alleged Moore had provided. Dearen, who had spent countless hours poring through audio and video recorded by Moore for the FBI, instantly recognized the deep, slow Southern drawl.
Within hours Dearen and AP visual journalist Robert Bumsted had booked flights to Florida.
Moore met the two AP journalists at his home with identification papers and proof of vaccination — he was indeed the man who’d spent much of a decade as a klansman. He’d even been elevated to the position of Grand Knight Hawk, the klan’s security official.
Moore said he reached out to Dearen after reading his first two stories. One about the failed murder plot and a follow-up piece about how inmates, current and former guards, and former prison inspectors believe more white supremacists are employed in Florida prisons.
“I want to give you the information I have in case something happens to me and I can no longer speak.”
— Former FBI informant Joseph Moore
Bumsted and Dearen spent most of two days interviewing Moore about his years in the klan. Moore said he’d identified dozens of law enforcement officers who were either sympathetic to the klan, or active members. “It is more prevalent and consequential than any of them are willing to admit,” Moore said.
Dearen corroborated many of Moore’s claims through court records and trial transcripts. His story about Moore’s years working undercover filled in a picture of a man who’d only been partially rendered in Dearen’s previous stories. And Moore’s information gave Dearen material to further challenge Florida corrections officials’ statements that they have no indication of wider klan or other criminal gang activity among their prison guards.
The story lit up online, getting tens of thousands of likes and retweets on AP’s main account. By the morning after its publication, the story it had nearly 200,000 pageviews. The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Miami Herald all posted or published the piece. Muck Rack Daily and Politico Playbook labeled it a “must-read” story, and numerous film producers reached out to inquire about film rights.
Bumsted’s nearly eight-minute video was used heavily by clients, as was the raw footage he filed from the interview. WJXT in Jacksonville, the region’s largest news source, said it was the most popular piece on its website and produced a piece using Bumsted’s footage.
For chasing the story so long and covering it so well that it brought an underground FBI informant out of the shadows, Dearen and Bumsted earn AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.