The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Trial Day 2: Witness Details Edwards’ Plot to Kill Dees

By Sonia Scherr on November 13, 2008 - 9:56 pm, Posted in Klan, Lawsuits, Trial Updates

BRANDENBURG, Ky. — In dramatic testimony today, a former white supremacist told the court that the head of the Imperial Klans of America (IKA) instructed him to assassinate Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees (below).

Morris Dees

“[IKA leader] Mr. [Ron] Edwards is a very dangerous man to me,” said Kale Kelly, who was once a trusted member of Edwards’s inner circle. “He promotes violence and hatred [toward] anybody who he feels threatens him: minorities, Jews, blacks. I’ve lived with him. I know this.”

Kelly’s testimony, which came during the second day of SPLC’s trial against Edwards, struck a blow to the heart of the Klan leader’s defense: That he does not encourage his members to commit violent acts. It also contradicted Edwards’ earlier testimony that he never told Kale to kill anyone.

The SPLC sued Edwards of Dawson Springs, Ky., in civil court, contending that members of his Klan group attacked and severely injured a 16-year-old boy of Panamanian descent because they mistakenly thought he was “an illegal spic.” Also named as a defendant was Jarred Hensley of Cincinnati, who served two years in state prison for assaulting Gruver at a county fair in northwest Kentucky. The SPLC hopes to win damages large enough to shut down the IKA, one of the largest Klan groups in America.

Kelly testified that he met privately with Edwards late one night in the guard shack outside Edwards’ former home in tiny Powderly, Ky. Edwards bestowed on him the rank of lieutenant in a secret cell whose mission was to injure and kill blacks, Jews, people of mixed race, and anyone who opposed Edwards. The Klan leader showed Kelly a photograph of several people in camouflage, one of them with a circle drawn around his head. “He told me to take care of this individual … by any means, to kill him,” Kelly testified.

Then Edwards showed Kelly a slip of paper with a name on it: “Morris Dees.” Edwards wanted Dees dead because of the SPLC’s lawsuit against the Aryan Nations, an Idaho-based neo-Nazi group. After instructing Kelly to assassinate Dees, Edwards burned the paper in a candle flame.

To carry out the plot, Kelly intended to track Dees in Idaho, while Edwards was to supply the weapon. But in April 1999, within days of his planned departure, the plot was thwarted by an FBI informant who had infiltrated the Aryan Nations. Kelly served time in federal prison on weapons charges; Edwards was never charged in connection with his role in the plot.

Kelly, now married and employed, broke down as he told the jury that he was a changed man.

Joshua Cowles, a former IKA member, also testified that Edwards asked him to use violence. As a new recruit, he was ordered to beat up a man who had an IKA tattoo that Edwards wanted covered up.

Cowles said that Edwards spent money on himself that had been intended for his organization. For instance, when the IKA received over $400 earmarked for Hensley’s legal defense in a criminal case, Edwards instead used most of the money to pay his bills.

“The IKA is about one man and one man only — and that’s Ron Edwards. It’s about his greed, his want to have money, his desire to get by without working, his desire to trick people into giving him money to support him,” he said.

Because of that greed, Edwards encourages his Klansman to recruit aggressively, according to testimony from Cowles and former IKA “Acting Exalted Cyclops” Matthew Roberts. Moreover, Roberts testified that business cards with Klan contact information — the same ones Klansmen distributed at the Meade County Fairgrounds the night they assaulted Gruver — were kept in the guardhouse office at the IKA compound. Edwards had claimed during his earlier testimony that he’d never seen the cards. Roberts said the men thought the fair would be fertile recruiting turf for the Klan because, he said, Brandenburg “is a redneck town.”

SWA skinheads

Spectators today included Supreme White Alliance members and a man in full camouflage uniform with an IKA patch. Several other men in fatigues with black berets sat near the entrance to the Meade County Courthouse, where security has been beefed up for the trial. Also outside the courthouse, Edwards’ son, Steven Edwards, conferred with his father. Steven Edwards leads the Supreme White Alliance (SWA), a racist skinhead group. Hensley is now the second-highest ranking member of SWA, which was in the news recently when a former member was one of two men charged in connection with a plot against president-elect Barack Obama.

Tomorrow, Jordan Gruver, the teenager assaulted by Klansmen, will testify about his injuries.

Photo of Morris Dees by Bill Luster © The Courier-Journal

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  • Morpheus

    I sincerely hope that as these prosecutions and trials continue that the truth will come out about other supporters of racial supremacy; ppl who support the cause but don’t necessarily get their own hands dirty by partaking in any of the dirty work. And, perhaps as these allegations are revealed, that even those who merely support the cause will themselves be held accountable for inciting the violence and hatred that they have made their own.

    This includes ppl like TX Congressman Ron Paul, who has taken excessive amounts of financial and logistical support from many white supremacist organizations and individuals within those organizations for his Congressional and Presidential campaigns. This includes ppl like Don Black, Lew Rockwell, and Roy Frankhouser.

    Another list of ppl who support their own brand of racial supremacy includes ppl such as Louis Farrakhan and Kamau Kambon, and they should be held under just as much scrutiny and with just as much accountability!

  • Yolanda Sinclair

    This seems like a wonderful organization. Thank you for all your efforts. I have learned so much from the website, and will continue to learn more as I so believe in tolerance.

  • kwazimota

    the religius organizations had all angles of the jesus buisness covered i thought. you really push the envelope are you creating monsters. are you a don quixote type organization. well hates incurable so ull never be without a job. when u need a christmas bonus do you scan the papers for an unseemly situation then put a racial spin on profit on the suffering of another is to be without virtue. when i boy falls down we say get up son rub some dirt on it.keep up the good work.

  • James Hallman

    Racialist should stop the senseless violence and
    engage in activity that scares the hell out of folks
    like Dees, and that is simply, organize, and not play
    into the hands of those Jewish/Marxist organizations
    that are actively destroying white people in this nation
    by supporting open border policies, cultural marxism,
    and anti-white hate laws. Socioeconomic melt-down
    in this country is only a matter of time, and it’s up to
    us to be ideologically and materially prepared to take
    advantage of circumstances. Comrades should engage
    the enemy by the infiltration of all levels of our society
    including the military, police force, and government
    agencies just to name a few.. Self-education and indoctrination of the National Socialist idea is essential
    to being prepared mentally and emotionally in carrying
    out our mission of establishing a national/racialist state.
    In the event of social upheaval, it will be up to us to
    maintain some semblance of order since the regular
    police and national guard will be too busy in saving their
    own skins and becoming just as disorderly as the criminals,remember Katrina.
    The present democratic process is too flawed and
    manipulated by Jewish/marxist, minorities,and white
    traitors to allow any real change. Prayers and the vote,
    isn’t going to bring about any realistic change in this nation.
    Only our collective and persistent will , can bring about
    the political and social progress necessary to advance
    our race as evolution intended. The ‘morality of survival’
    gives us the right, to do whatever is necessary in order
    to insure the continuation of our Aryan gene pool .Join
    the revolution, keep your records clean, no tattoos, be a
    disciplined activist ,or a sleeper, no booze, no drugs
    and obove all else, be patient. Our our time will come and
    justice will be served. Know that all is not lost, and our
    freedom can come only through being idealist ,rather than
    egoist, and that our only hope is through racial solidarity.

  • Daniel

    I honestly don’t understand the freedom these groups have. All of these men are terrorists. How come these hate groups are not all rounded up and sent to Guantanamo Bay? They incite violence against anyone who isn’t a WASP. These people are terrorists on U.S soil. I understand free speech, freedom of expression and so forth but the IKA, skinheads, and white supremacists in general are all terrorists. I think a 2.5 M settlement will do great things for Mr. Gruver, but these men are still out and about. Broke or not, they are still a danger to our way of life. SPLC stick it to them and don’t stop at the law suits stick these biggots where they belong!

  • walker

    Glad to suppot s.p.l.c.. i am a retired police lieutenant from georgia- i have had to protect scum like the klan so they could do there rallys and recrutiments. i had no choice as they had all the right to gather and they had the permits so we as a matter of law had to protect them and there rights, however disgusting this is , and was to me , it meant to keep my mouth shut ,lead my squad to the parade, ect and let no one violate there rights, howevr the klan and he other subverise groups think its thereright to maim kill and destroy those who are diffrent or oppose there way!!thnak God for morris dees and his splc.. thanks again

  • Hilda

    I have been a supporter of SPLC since early in the 80’s and you are in my will. Thank you, Morris, for all that you and your people do to make this country the place it could be. I probably won’t live to see it, being 96, but I do have HOPE with people like you surviving me and continuing this most important fight. With much love and gratitude- Hilda

  • John T. Olson

    I owe you all my life. I hope that you all live to see the day that there is no more violence against anyone because of the color of their skin or because of their ethnicity or because of their religion or their beliefs. May you win the trial against those idiots. signed John T. Olson Disabled Viet Nam Veteran

  • KYJurisDoctor

    These Klan Klowns are a pathetic bunch if IDIOTS!

  • Joseph V. Bednarsky Jr.

    on November 13th, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    As an ex-Klan leader and now Minister in training I will keep this case in prayer and hope that the SPLC wins this case against the Klan.

    Where there is grace, there is NO race…

    For God’s Glory, Joe

  • Sheila Morrison

    To Morris, Richard and all in your wonderful law center,,
    please keep up the fight against hate …..your work is so worthwhile, and it looks like it’s making a huge dent in the
    ignorance of those who were raised without a clue of what
    FREEDOM means. I sure do hope you win this crucial
    case, and bring them to their knees.

  • Jacob Spitz

    Thank you again for your courage. Keep up the good work. I appreciate the daily blog that allows many to see and read exactly what is happening. Evil only survives if we stay quiet and blind to it. This type of trial puts it in the light of day where all can observe.

  • Raman Shanker

    To teach ones children to hate or raise them in an environment of hate directed at people different from themselves is a heinous crime in any society. I commend Mr. Morris Dee and others of SPLC for their efforts to stem these despicable activities in our society. I have been a supporter of SPLC for more than two decades.

  • Albert Garibay

    This Kid did nothing to these people ( The Klan ) and they attacked him and hurt him.I am a Skinhead a Racist but this is what makes me different from all the others I would never attack or hurt anyone that first did not threaten my life or attack me and did the same to one of my family members.I leave people alone of all colors.I love my freedom to do what I want when I want I am not a follower of anyone not even GOD I follow ME I do what is right for me from what I have read this leader of the Klan and his followers only the ones that hurt this kid deserve to go to prison forever.

  • Barbara

    Thank you SPLC for you constant battle with these racist groups. I pray for you everyday. This country has finally become what it says it is in the election of Barack Obama. I just hope that the bigots finally “see the light” or eventually die off. People like Dees and the SPLC are so brave. They are taking on the work all of us should be fighting for daily. God bless and godspeed in this all important trial. Thanks for the updates.

  • Judy Platz

    Again, thank you, thank you SPLC for your untiring work! …”the arm of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice…” MLK. Kelly’s testimony is an example of such.

  • George

    We still have a ways to go, as evidenced by email comments posted to the Atlanta Journal Constitution just after Obama’s election. From the vile messages posted by those to cowardly to sign their real names, the “city too busy to hate” still has those with far too much time on their hands. The merchants of hate still have many wares available.

  • Nathan Gant

    Hello, SPLC!

    I know that racism still exists on a subtle level these days. Intolerance and ignorance are very much a part of the shallow mindset of these people, not just the KKK and the skinheads.

    Fortunately, most of those subtlely-racist persons are not prone to violence and their out-spoken views are an annoyance more than anything else.

    But in the case of these Klan members, it’s obvious that they are ready and willing to do violent acts against other ethnic groups or individuals, and they justify their illegal actions by blaming the victim for these acts, i.e., they are “illegals” so it’s acceptable to attack them.

    This trial is important because it will show to everyone that people who have darker skin than ours, it does not mean they are illegal aliens. For that matter, no human being is illegal, no matter what language they speak or what country from which they originate.

  • antoinette

    Thank you both for all your hard work and dedication to end hatred all over the United States. Educational Awareness is important. I totally agree with one of your supporters. We must education the children on diversity at any early age.

    Most people who hate others because the color of their skin are haters of themselves. We as American people must work hard to bring this type of behavior to an end.

    After all this is the only world we have.

  • Eileen

    You are fighting the good fight. Please keep up your noble work.

  • Fred

    You all represent everything this country could be; those you bring to trial represent so much of what’s wrong that it’s quite sad to know such simple-minded beasts still exist in America today. Keep up the good fight. Fred

  • Aslan Maskhadov

    In case you haven’t notice, “diversity” has been taught and is being taught everywhere- and it hasn’t had any significant effect. That’s mainly because for every praise of “diversity” in the media, there’s some form of veiled racism, reinforcement of racist stereotypes, etc. And besides, what exactly does diversity MEAN anyway? It’s an ambiguous concept like “tolerance”. Every can say they are for it because nobody can define it.

    The real solution to racial problems in America is the dismantling of the class based society, along with the nationalization of the mass media, to keep it from spreading messages that cause real harm in society.

  • Jack Greer

    Bless you for the work you continue to do year after year. This court case highlights precisely what needs to be done: to place the thoughts and deeds of these people in the light of common day. Anyone with a sense of decency and fairness is certain to be appalled. As someone who taught in an all-black (segregated) school in the 1960s, I applaud your efforts to reach young people. — Jack

  • K. E. England

    Thank you so much! Your bravery and example, your legal service and concern for people who are being abused and maligned, are a tremendous influence in my life. My prayers are with you and those individuals, families, and communities you are serving. May God bless and protect your families, each member of SPLC’s team, and the innocent victims who are bravely seeking their rights!!

  • Annette Lackaff

    I have supported the SPLC for many years and have been glad to do so. The present trial is so important to all of us.
    My prayers and thoughts are for the safety of Morris and the others who are putting their lives in danger– so that hatred may be diffused, and love take it’s place. It is clear that the root cause of hatred is fear, pure and simple fear.
    Fear takes on the ugly face of hatred as a way to deal with the fear, to disguise it as a legitimate complaint against the “supposedly” evil person who is nothing more than someone different from ourselves. Instead of facing the fear of that difference, it puts on the face of hatred. How much intelligence does that take?

  • Dianna

    This is very disturbing.

    Whatever caused Mr. Kelly’s to change his thinking, perhaps he will go forth to enlighten others on the error of racism and hatred.

    Thank you for doing this very important work and keeping us informed about the trial.

  • Dave

    It’s great to read Richard Cohen’s daily email updates on the trial.

    I look forward to a judgment that will totally wipe out the finances of the IKA.

  • Dennie

    Santa Barbara is burning tonight.

    I hope you guys are sleeping peacefully. I am filled with gratitude for your frontline fight. For so many years. I send you love.


  • Carrie

    Mr. Dees and all who continue to fight the honorable fight against prejudices on all levels – thank you. It is so true that we get to young people before their minds are wrapped around hatred. Hatred is a learned behavior. Acceptance is something we are born with. We do not have to be taught to accept . . . watch two children playing . . . they accept. It is not until much later that adults in their lives teach them how to hate. I can only speak my heart and mind but as a teacher in this United States, I am honored to teach about the SPLC and what they are doing for America. Thanks again.

  • Mrs Jalica Miller

    Today in our country…the same tactics are used very often even at the lower ranks of people who have a stake in receiving benefits. To be subject to such cruelty and mayham is something Our Nation should STOP dead in their Tracks! Diversity must be a mandatory learning in schools, colleges and whereever Americans need to become aware as with Safety that is ignored throughout this Nation! AWARENESS of the existance of Racial and Religious divide is never ending….The only Hope for the constitution is that CONGRESS stands forthright in sounding out to all Americans bigotry will not be allowed in the workforce…It must STAND as loud as our FLAG!