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

Despite Testimony on Past Misuse, Klan Boss Solicits More Funds

Posted in Klan, Lawsuits by David Holthouse on December 2, 2008 - 9:06 am

Eight days after a Meade County, Ky., civil jury delivered a potentially crippling verdict against the Imperial Klans of America (IKA), including $1 million in punitive damages against IKA leader Ron Edwards, the unrepentant imperial wizard had this to say to “IKA Members and Supporters”:

I quit.

Oh, and please send money.

In an open letter dated Nov. 22 and posted on the IKA website, Edwards declared that he was resigning effective immediately. “I need time off because I have not had any in many years,” wrote Edwards, who founded the IKA, now the third largest Klan group in America, in late 1996.

Edwards further explained that he was stepping down in order to “focus my efforts” on preparing an appeal of the $2.5-million judgment in a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on behalf of a teenager who was assaulted by IKA members at a county fair in rural Kentucky in 2006.

Although Edwards represented himself during the recent three-day trial, he claimed in his letter that an unnamed Louisville, Ky., lawyer had offered to represent Edwards on appeal for the cut rate of $10,000. “That is GREAT!” Edwards wrote. “While this lawyer does not share our beliefs, he … seems to be determined to put up a serious fight in court. So, anyone who can send anything in, please do! In the memo area, please write ‘Lawyer.’ Thank you so much!” Later in the letter, Edwards reiterated his plea for money: “Again, anyone who can help with donations for the appeal, please do. This is very important, not just for myself, but all Pro-European American groups and our people as whole.”

Unfortunately for Edwards, potential donors to his purported cause are likely to consider the damning testimony of former IKA members who said in the Meade County trial that Edwards routinely lines his own pockets with IKA membership fees and “defense fund” donations. One of them, Joshua Cowles, a former IKA recruiter under Edwards, described a typical occasion where Edwards paid his own bills with a $400 donation that Edwards had solicited on behalf of an IKA member facing a criminal assault charge. “The IKA is about one man and one man only—and that’s Ron Edwards,” Cowles said on the witness stand. “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.” ( continue to full post… )

Trial Day 3 Update: SPLC Wins $2.5 Million Verdict for Teen in Klan Case

Posted in Klan, Lawsuits, Trial Updates by Sonia Scherr on November 15, 2008 - 1:08 am

BRANDENBURG, Ky. — In a blow to one of the nation’s largest Klan groups, jurors yesterday awarded more than $2.5 million to a teenager who was assaulted by Klansmen at a county fair in rural Kentucky.

The verdict is expected to shut down the Imperial Klans of America (IKA), which has 16 chapters in eight states. “We intend to collect every dime we can on the judgment and do everything within our power to put the Imperial Klans out of business,” said Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen at a press conference after the verdict announcement.

The SPLC sued IKA leader Ron Edwards of Dawson Springs, Ky., contending that members of his Klan group attacked a 16-year-old U.S. citizen of Panamanian descent 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.

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Trial Day 3: Teen Describes Klan Beating in Final Day of Testimony

Posted in Klan, Lawsuits, Trial Updates by Sonia Scherr on November 14, 2008 - 6:14 pm

BRANDENBURG, Ky. — A teenager gave an emotional account of his assault by Klansmen during the final day of testimony in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s trial against the Imperial Klans of America.

Jordan Gruver, who was 16 when he was attacked by IKA members at the Meade County Fair, told the jury that he was about to buy a drink from a concession stand when several Klansmen called him a “spic,” spat at him and threw whiskey in his face. Then Klansman Jarred Hensley struck a blow to his jaw that knocked him off his feet. Gruver showed the jury how he curled up in a fetal position and tried to protect his head with his arms. While he lay on the ground, Klansmen kicked him with steel-toed boots.

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

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

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.

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Kentucky Klan Trial Day 2: Bulletin

Posted in Klan, Lawsuits, Trial Updates by Mark Potok on November 13, 2008 - 3:08 pm

A former member of the Imperial Klans of America (IKA) testified today that the group’s leader led a plot to kill the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), according to The Associated Press.

The AP said that Kale Kelly, who is testifying for the SPLC in a lawsuit against the Kentucky-based IKA, testified that IKA leader Ron Edwards wanted to kill the SPLC’s Morris Dees. Edwards was said to be infuriated by an SPLC lawsuit tried by Dees against another white supremacist group, the Aryan Nations, in 1999.

The SPLC sued the IKA, Edwards, and several IKA members over the beating of a 16-year-old boy at a county fair by two IKA members.

Hatewatch will report fully on these developments later in the day.

Trial Day 1: Steel-Toed Boots Help SPLC Make Case Against Klan

Posted in Klan, Lawsuits, Trial Updates by Sonia Scherr on November 12, 2008 - 11:54 pm

BootsBRANDENBURG, Ky. — A jury got a look today at the weapon that was used in a Ku Klux Klan assault on a 16-year-old boy: a pair of steel-toed black boots with bright red laces.

The boots played a key role in testimony during the first day of the civil trial against the leader of the Imperial Klans of America (IKA), one of the nation’s largest Klan organizations with 16 chapters in eight states. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil lawsuit against IKA leader Ron Edwards, contending that members of his group assaulted and severely injured Jordan Gruver in July 2006 at a county fair in Brandenburg, about 40 miles southwest of Louisville.

Gruver, a U.S.-born citizen of Panamanian descent, was attacked because the Klansmen wrongly assumed he was “an illegal spic.” By suing Edwards and Jarred Hensley — a Klansman who pleaded guilty to attacking Gruver — the SPLC hopes to win damages large enough to shut down one of America’s most dangerous Klan groups.

Today, the SPLC began making its case before a jury at the Meade County Courthouse in Brandenburg. The boots with red laces were introduced into evidence during the testimony of Joe Greer, a detective for the Meade County District Attorney’s Office who investigated the assault on Gruver. Greer used a magnet to demonstrate how he confirmed that the boots had steel toes. He also testified that they were the boots Hensley had on the night he and another Klansman kicked Gruver after knocking him to the ground.

SPLC lead trial attorney Morris Dees returned to the boots during his questioning of Edwards, who runs the IKA from his 15-acre compound in Dawson Springs, Ky. Dees got Edwards to admit that steel-toed boots are “the weapon of choice” for skinheads, which Edwards welcomed into his group despite knowing of their propensity for violence.

“What’s the significance of the red laces?” Dees asked.

“That means someone shed blood for their race.” Edwards replied.

Edwards, who spent about 2½ hours on the stand today, sports several tattoos on his shaven head that were visible in the courtroom, including “Fuck S.P.L.C.,” “Death to ZOG [Zionist-occupied government]” and “Aryan Justice.” Hensley also has numerous tattoos, including the word “violence” on his knuckles, “murder” below his neck, and a swastika on his arm. ( continue to full post… )

Klan Trial to Begin Tomorrow in Kentucky

Posted in Klan, Lawsuits, Trial Updates by Sonia Scherr on November 11, 2008 - 5:02 pm

Brandenburg, Ky. — Trial is scheduled to start tomorrow in the case of a teenager who was beaten by Klansmen at a county fair in rural Kentucky.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued the head of one of the nation’s largest Klan groups, the Imperial Klans of America (IKA), alleging that members of the group assaulted and severely injured 16-year-old Jordan Gruver during a 2006 recruiting drive at the Meade County Fairgrounds. The civil lawsuit contends that Gruver, a U.S.-born citizen of Panamanian descent, was targeted because the Klansmen thought he was “an illegal spic.”

The case aims to hold IKA leader Ron Edwards accountable for the attack that was perpetrated by members of his group. The SPLC hopes to win a verdict large enough to shut down the organization, which has 16 chapters in eight states. Also named as a defendant is Jarred R. Hensley, one of two Klansmen convicted of assault in criminal court for his attack on Gruver.

We will post daily dispatches as the trial unfolds this week in Meade Circuit Court.

Plot to Murder SPLC Founder Disclosed

Posted in Hate Groups, Klan, Lawsuits, Neo-Nazi, Podcasts by Mark Potok on July 14, 2008 - 9:02 am

A new book details a formerly undisclosed 1999 plot to assassinate Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and possibly also to blow up the center. Written by FBI agent Tym Burkey and informant Dave Hall, Into the Devil’s Den describes how Hall, after penetrating the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations group in Ohio and Idaho, uncovered the plot shortly before the assassin was to head south to SPLC headquarters in Montgomery, Ala. The assassin was arrested on April 14, 1999, and had timed his attack to roughly coincide with the April 19-20 anniversaries of the fiery end of the 1993 Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and the birthday of Adolf Hitler. The plot was apparently concocted by several men upset that Dees and the SPLC that year sued the Aryan Nations in an action that ultimately resulted in the sale of the group’s Idaho compound.

Ron EdwardsRemarkably, the book also identifies Ron Edwards, national leader of the Kentucky-based Imperial Klans of America (IKA), as a possible (but uncharged) conspirator. The SPLC is now preparing for a November trial against Edwards and IKA on behalf of a boy who was beaten by two of the group’s members. This February, when Dees went to Kentucky to take Edwards’ deposition, the Klan leader (above, right) showed up with a fresh tattoo on the side of his newly shaven head that read, “FUCK S.P.L.C.”

The 1999 plot, which was averted thanks to the work of Hall and Burkey, was only the latest attempt by extremists to assassinate Dees or attack the SPLC. More than 30 people have been sent to federal prison in connection with similar plots.

For more on this case, read an account of the plot here.

Would-Be Cop Killer, Son of Racist Leader, Shot Dead

Posted in Hate Groups, Klan, Lawsuits, White Supremacist by Mark Potok on April 1, 2008 - 9:15 am

Sometimes, violence just seems to beget more violence.

Last Friday, the 30-year-old son of Frazier Glenn Miller — a white supremacist icon of the 1980s who went to prison for defying court orders to shut down his paramilitary White Patriot Party — was shot to death by a Marionville, Mo., police officer who he’d just wounded with a shotgun blast.

Authorities were still investigating the bizarre events surrounding Jesse Miller’s death today. But initial reports indicated that Miller, driving an SUV, had an accident with a pickup truck on the afternoon of Friday, March 28. Shortly after the crash, Joseph M. Rich, 55, stopped to offer to help Miller — who, for reasons that are still unknown, responded by killing him with a shotgun he had in his vehicle. Moments later, officer Andy Clark arrived and ordered Miller to put down the weapon. Instead, Miller shot Clark, who then managed to shoot Miller dead.

Jesse Miller shooting scene

The officer, wounded in the shoulder, was conscious when taken to the hospital a short time later. Officials said his injuries were not life threatening.

Rich, the Good Samaritan, was not so lucky. Friends and relatives this week were mourning the memory of the man widely known as “Big Mike,” a tattoo artist who was driving a small school bus that he’d converted to a mobile tattoo parlor. Friends said that in addition to working at a Marionville parlor, Rich was known for traveling the country to sell his tattoos at motorcycle rallies. ( continue to full post… )

Taking on the Klan

Posted in Hate Groups, Klan, Lawsuits by Mark Potok on July 25, 2007 - 2:35 pm

This morning, the Southern Poverty Law Center followed up an earlier lawsuit against two Klansmen by filing a complaint against their organization, the Imperial Klans of America (IKA), and three additional individuals (full story here). Both legal actions are based on the savage July 2006 beating by several IKA members of a 16-year-old boy at the Meade County Fairgrounds in Brandenburg, Ky. The attackers, one of whom weighed 300 pounds, called their 150-pound victim a “spic” and left him with broken bones and other serious injuries. ( continue to full post… )