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A federal judge this morning sentenced Ronald Wayne Edwards (seen at right during a deposition in 2007), former imperial wizard of the Kentucky-based Imperial Klans of America (IKA), to 48 months in prison, The Associated Press reported.
Edwards, who was charged with federal gun and drug violations, pleaded guilty in March. Along with his longtime girlfriend, Christina Gillette, who pleaded guilty on drug charges, he was accused trafficking methamphetamines and painkillers. Gillette will serve 12 months and one day in prison, the AP said.
Edwards got his start with the Klan in the early 1990s as head of the Kentucky klavern (or local unit) of the Arkansas-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. That group, originally started by David Duke but since led by Thom Robb, tried to portray itself as a kinder, gentler Klan, seeking to adopt highways and follow other strategies meant to improve its image. But the group split in July 1994, when nine chapters departed to form the Federation of Klans over an accusation that Robb had absconded with funds raised through a telephone hotline and also a $20,000 gift that was allegedly meant for the group.
Edwards was briefly with the federation, led by former Robb follower Ed Novak, but the group collapsed around 1995. In 1996, Edwards started the IKA.
The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Edwards in 2008, contending that members of his Klan group attacked a 16-year-old U.S. citizen of Panamanian Indian descent on his father’s side because they thought he was an “illegal spic.” Also named as a defendant was Jarred Hensley of Cincinnati, who served nearly three years in state prison for assaulting the teenager at a county fair in northwest Kentucky. A jury found Edwards liable for 20% of the $2.5 million they awarded the teen.
The case is currently on appeal.