Saturday, November 15, 2008

Teen Sues The KKK And Wins

Brian Bohannon, AP---Jordan Gruver gets a hug from his mother, Cindy, after the verdict is read.

Teen Wins Lawsuit Against KKK Members
By Ann O'Neill, CNN
posted: 5 MINUTES AGOcomments: 471filed under: Crime News, National News

(Nov. 15) -- A jury awarded $2.5 million in damages on Friday to a Kentucky teenager who was severely beaten by members of a Ku Klux Klan group because they mistakenly thought he was an illegal Latino immigrant, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
The jury found that the Imperial Klans of America and its founder wrongfully targeted 16-year-old Jordan Gruver, an American citizen of Panamanian and Native-American descent.

The verdict included $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages against "Imperial Wizard" Ron Edwards.
The law center said before the verdict that a large damage award could break the Klan group, allowing the teen and the law center to seize the group's assets, including its headquarters, a 15-acre compound in Dawson Springs, Kentucky.
"We look forward to collecting every dime that we can for our client and to putting the Imperial Klans of America out of business," said SPLC founder and chief trial attorney Morris Dees, who tried the case.
Gruver, backed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed the personal injury lawsuit last year seeking up to $6 million in damages from the Imperial Klans of America and two of its leaders -- Edwards and "Grant Titan" Jarred R. Hensley.
An all-white jury of seven men and seven women deliberated for five hours after three days of testimony. The suit alleged that Edwards, Hensley, and the Imperial Klans of America as a whole incited its members to use violence against minorities.

"The people of Meade County, Kentucky, have spoken loudly and clearly. And what they've said is that ethnic violence has no place in our society, that those who promote hate and violence will be held accountable and made to pay a steep price," Dees said.
According to testimony, three members of the Klan group confronted Gruver in July 2006 during a recruiting mission at the Meade County Fair in Brandenberg, Kentucky. They taunted him with ethnic slurs -- inaccurate ones -- spat on him and doused him with alcohol .Two of the men, including Hensley, knocked Gruver to the ground and repeatedly struck and kicked him.
"All I could see was a bunch of feet," Gruver, now 19, told the jury. "As they were kicking me, I prayed to myself. I said, 'God, just please let me go. Please let me make it home.' "
When the blows stopped, Gruver had a broken jaw, broken left forearm, two cracked ribs and cuts and bruises.
He testified that he has suffered permanent nerve damage and psychological trauma. He doesn't leave his house and rarely sleeps more than two hours at a time because he has nightmares, CNN affiliate WLKY reported.

Among the evidence the jury saw was a pair of red-laced, steel-toed boots. A police witness testified that Hensley wore the boots the night he and another Klansman attacked Gruver.
Edwards acknowledged from the witness stand that the boots were the "weapon of choice" for skinheads and that the red laces carried special significance -- that "someone should shed blood for their race."
Also revealed during testimony: An alleged Klan plot to kill the Southern Poverty Law Center's attorney, Morris Dees.
Former Klansman Kale Kelly, once a member of Edwards' inner circle, testified he was told to kill Dees because of the center's lawsuit in Idaho against the Aryan Nations, a neo-Nazi supremacist organization.
The plot was thwarted by the FBI in 1999, according to testimony.
Kelly, who since has left the group, cried on the witness stand during his testimony.
Other former Klansmen also testified that they were encouraged to use violence. One said he was conditioned to kill. VideoWatch the former Klansmen testify »
Gruver's assailants already have gone through the criminal courts, striking plea bargains and serving time in the Kentucky state prison system, according to court documents. The case was not treated as a hate crime.

Dees alleged that on the night in question -- July 29 and 30, 2006 -- Edwards "sent his agents out on a mission." During that mission, which included recruiting and distributing Klan literature at the fair, Gruver was beaten because the men mistakenly believed he was an illegal immigrant.
Edwards, who represented himself, told the jury he had nothing to do with the attack. "I stay within the law. I don't break the law," he said.
At an earlier court deposition, Edwards demonstrated his contempt for the center and its lawsuit by tattooing a profane reference to it on his freshly shaved head.
On its Web site, the Imperial Klans of America refers to itself as a Christian organization exercising its rights of free speech and assembly under the U.S. Constitution.
The site carries this proviso: "If you are not of the White race, this Web site is not for the likes of YOU!" It then goes on to name the races and ethnicities it "hates," adding, "This is our God-given right."
The Web site disavows violence or any kind of criminal activity.
Edwards lives in a trailer on the Klan group's heavily guarded, gated compound in rural Dawson Springs. The compound is the site of the Klan's annual white power rally and music festival, know as "Nordic Fest," according to the suit.
It was at the compound, the suit alleges, that the Klan group incited its members to use violence against minorities.
The Klan seems to thrive during times of political and financial turmoil, according to organizations that monitor its activities.

The first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan was founded by a group of Confederate generals at the end of the Civil War to promote a white supremacist agenda. The Klan was driven underground, but re-formed after World War I. Klan activity increased during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and has surged again since 2006 as a result of opposition to gay marriage and immigration.
There is no single, centralized Ku Klux Klan. The Southern Poverty Law Center says the Imperial Klans of America is the second largest KKK group after the Brotherhood of Klans Knights, based in Marion, Ohio.
Booth Gunter, the center's spokesman, said there are 34 named Klan organizations across the country, with 155 separate chapters.
The Anti-Defamation League estimates there are more than 40 different Klan groups, with as many as 5,000 members in more than 100 chapters, or "klaverns," across the country.
It is not the first time the Southern Poverty Law Center has taken a supremacist group to court and won.
In 2000, for example, the center won a $6.3 million jury verdict that forced Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler to give up the group's Idaho compound. In 1987, a $7 million verdict in Mobile, Alabama, targeted the United Klans of America.
© 2008 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
2008-11-15 06:50:46

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Ron Edwards might have had a chance, by staging a "political"
defense. That would have required "Chicago-Seven" tactics, putting
the accusers on trial. Instead, Edwards, convicted of conspiring to
have an Hispanic beaten up at a Kentucky county-fair, opted for a
traditional "criminal-defense" of "I didn't do it" and "I wasn't
there." He failed, as have all such previous ploys. Edwards had
employed a "Blues Brothers" genre, complete with facial-hair,
obesity, sun-glasses and profanity, even though its pioneer, George
Burdi, had shut down, after Burdi-disciples, the Pennsylvania
Freeman-Brothers, went on a killing-spree. Edwards exuded the same
bravado as Tom Metzger, who, also, had served as his own lawyer and
declared that "I wasn't there," when sued for violence-instigation.
As for organization, former Edwards-associate Joshua Cowles testified
that it "is about one man and one man only. That's Ron Edwards."

In order to succeed, Edwards would have had to convince a jury that
Hispanics were the problem and that acquitting him of assault-charges
would "send a signal" that border-jumpers needed to be "taught a
lesson," not to invade the country. The "victim" would have had to be
shown as the American people and the assaulters as the "vigilantes,"
meting out "extra-legal" justice. Instead, Edwards assumed that the
jury disagreed with his views and said so. He, also, called no
witnesses, but sported a profane-tattoo on his scalp and a trail of
obscenity, vulgarity and violence-instigation. It was as though the
owner of a pit-bull, let to run wild, had claimed, "I didn't bite the
kid." Edwards' associates testified against Edwards, stating that he
had provoked them to violence. An all-white jury delivered a $2.5
million verdict to Morris Dees, who had succeeded in pervious
litigation against all except The Nationalist Movement.

Co-defendant Jarred Hensley, wearing facial-hair and sporting
tattoos, claimed that even though he had pleaded guilty to assault
previously, he was not guilty, a David-Duke type of retrenchment,
which, also, failed. Hensley described himself as a "hater," a term
promoted by Dees in building up various reckless individuals, who
Dees would claim to be "leaders" and, then, sue. Dees had claimed
that Edwards was the "Number Two" "biggest" leader in the country,
but, in court-documents, conceded that Edwards was only a
"one-man-show." Nationalists teach classes on how to avoid
"conspiracies," by using the law and avoiding "buzz words," but
Edwards had proceeded otherwise. Shaun Walker, also, failed to take
such "preventive-maintenance" and was jailed for seven years for
assault-conspiracy. Edwards received a civil-judgment, requiring him
to turn over his land and assets and have wages garnished.

Co-defendant Andrew Watkins, who had been rumored as intending
to mount a strong defense, entered into a confidential-agreement
with Dees, prior to the trial, securing his dismissal. Dees, usually,
proposes that a defendant agree to pay a sum and not engage in
rightist-activism in the future. Dees made such a proposal to
Nationalists, who he sued in Georgia, demanding that they destroy
their mailing-list and never appear in public again. They rejected
the demand and prevailed against Dees. Dees had offered an agreement
to Edwards, to give up his property, where he had conducted rightist
gatherings, and withdraw from public for ten years. Edwards declined,
as did David Holland, who lost to Dees in Georgia. Asked for comment,
Watkins, who, also, had served as his own lawyer, did not respond.
Edwards vowed to appeal, but, claimed that he lacked funds for an
appeal-bond, which usually amounts to twice the judgment.

Edwards had insisted that his website posted a disclaimer that he did
not allow "violence." However, the same disclaimer had been posted by
Robert Shelton, the first to have been successfully sued by Dees,
when someone viewing a photo of a lynching conducted a lynching. In
court, Shelton had been unable to show any actual conduct preventing
violence. In fact, a video was shown in which Watkins had shouted "no
mercy" to Hispanics, at an Edwards-sponsored gathering. Matt Hale
had, also, claimed to oppose violence, until he was shown next to a
poster calling for "death" to his foes. Shelton was assessed a $7
million fine and Hale went to jail for forty years. In closing, Edwards
told the jury that "you may not agree with my beliefs, but that is your
right." Kale Kelly, who had lived with Edwards, testified that he had
served three years in prison for involvement in an Edwards-instigated

The same day as the verdict, "We Saw That," an anonymous blog,
published a leaked, confidential-memo, in which Nationalists
purportedly outlined how to conduct a "political-defense," although
they were not involved in the Edwards-trial. Nationalists protested
the publication, which apparently emanated from a disgruntled, former
associated-lawyer. Watkins, a musician, however, had posted the
single-word comment "brilliant," on a Nationalist-website, which
called for "combining legal-savvy with business-acumen." Nationalists
encourage lawful-conduct, while condemning would-be assassins, who
they identify as drug-addicts, Satan-worshipers or "wanna-bees."
As for falling into future Dees-traps, Lilli Frees said that "we have
better and brighter things to do and don't have to resort to
harassing people for fun." Frees concluded that "it's not worth our
time to get mad at those who abuse us. They're weak and just trash."
Copyright 2008 The Nationalist Movement