American Knights Klan Group Builds Thuggish Reputation
· Ed Foster, Berry's Pennsylvania leader until October 1997, led a gang rape of a 19-year-old college student in 1969. After the attack, Foster ran a pool cue through the woman's dog and torched her car. He served two years for the assault.
A former motorcycle gang member with "Born to Lose" tattooed on a forearm, Foster reacted with typical fury when a slaughterhouse he planned to convert into a Klan church was burned in 1997. "Whoever burned this down, I'm gonna kill," he said. "They're dead. They're murdered. Their families are dead. We are going to burn their houses down."
A short time later, he nearly ran down a television crew with his car.
· Michael McQueeney, until recently Berry's Wisconsin state leader, was sentenced in 1988 to six years in prison for conspiring to murder his ex-wife Audra Moe. McQueeney first paid his co-conspirators in Illinois to break Moe's legs with a baseball bat and then, when that failed, to shoot her on two different occasions.
On the last attempt, Moe was shot in the face but lived. In 1997, McQueeney, who split with Berry in 1998, was charged with intentionally receiving stolen property in connection with the theft of a snow plow. Last year, a judge granted a restraining order prohibiting him from harassing a family.
· Thomas Robert Moore, leader of a North Carolina chapter, has been charged with assault to inflict serious injury; simple assault; injury to personal property; impeding traffic; resisting arrest and violating a noise ordinance after allegedly firing a gun at a rally.
For reasons ranging from insufficient evidence to failure of a witness to appear, most of these charges were eventually dismissed.
In 1997, Moore threatened "another Greensboro" if stones were thrown at his group at a return engagement rally planned for Asheville, N.C. Five anti-Klan protesters were killed by Klansmen in Greensboro, N.C., in 1979.
· Ricky Linville, another North Carolina chapter leader, was found guilty in late 1997 with his wife, Linda, of communicating threats in an incident involving an interracial couple living next door. Both Linvilles were given 45-day suspended sentences and a year of probation. In 1992, Ricky Linville also drew a six-month suspended sentence and three years' probation for shoplifting.
He also has been found innocent or had charges dismissed after being arrested for assault with a deadly weapon; simple assault; possession of marijuana; and shoplifting in an incident unrelated to his earlier conviction.
· Jimmy Ray Shelton, Berry's national security chief, was given a 45-day suspended sentence and five years' probation after a Klan rally in North Carolina last August. Police found a concealed 9mm handgun and a shotgun in his car. Earlier in 1998, Shelton was charged with assaulting a woman. That case was outstanding at press time.
· J.J. Jones, North Carolina state leader, was arrested at a 1997 rally in North Carolina for being a fugitive on an outstanding check fraud warrant from Virginia.
'The Garbage Man'
More serious cases have come up as well.
Last spring, Jacob Wayne Stull, a 20-year-old supposed American Knights member and Shelton associate, was arrested for allegedly firing an AK-47 into the home of a black family living in a white North Carolina neighborhood.
Isaiah Edgerton, his wife, a friend and a 2-year-old girl were present when at least 10 shots hit their mobile home, but no one was hit. Another man riding in Stull's vehicle at the time was also arrested.
Stull has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder; discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling; possession of weapons of mass destruction; and a variety of other crimes including drug possession and dealing. Police found an arsenal of weapons, along with Klan and Nazi propaganda, when they raided Stull's home after the attack.
To Brad Thompson, who renounced the Klan and racism before going on to co-author his book about the American Knights, Jeff Berry is a simple opportunist. Berry, he says, runs his group as a moneymaking operation, raking in $20 application fees, "lease" fees for Klan robes and other organizational money for his own personal use.
Thompson alleges that Berry has used some of this money to buy a new pickup truck, a trailer and a dragster decorated with a long-standing Klan symbol; thousands of dollars in stereo and sound studio equipment; a hot tub; and various home improvements.
Hogwash, retorts Berry. "I just have good credit, that's all."
Thompson also alleges that the American Knights had an inner circle of Klansmen deeply involved in drugs — the "420 Club," which he says refers to a "four-finger" bag of marijuana that sells for $20. He says that this group of ranking members — which he adds does not include Berry — also used methamphetamines, LSD and other drugs.
But Berry says these people all have long since left his group.
In fact, he insists, so have all those with whom he's had disagreements. Thompson was a drunk who had to be gotten rid of. Foster was a Nazi (although Berry knew this full well when Foster was in the group) and, after all, "Hitler was a scumbag." Berry has done so many housecleanings, he says, that his confederates have given him a nickname.
"They call me," he says without irony, "the garbage man."