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SPLC Sues Klan Leader Jeff Berry

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit in January 2000 against Jeff Berry, American Knights of the KKK leader, alleging false imprisonment and assault against two journalists.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit in January against Jeff Berry, the national leader of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, alleging that Berry falsely imprisoned and assaulted two Kentucky journalists.

According to the suit, reporter George Sells IV and camerawoman Heidi Thiel went to Berry's house near in Newville, Ind., on Nov. 17 to interview Berry about an upcoming rally in southern Indiana near the journalists' Lousiville station, WHAS-TV.

Berry became enraged when the pair told him that they also planned to interview Brad Thompson, a former Berry deputy who defected from the group.

Berry allegedly demanded the journalists' videotape. When they refused, Berry and several followers held them in the room where the Berry interview had been conducted. Another Klan follower blocked their vehicle in the driveway.

Finally, the suit alleges, the journalists gave up their tapes after another Berry follower entered the room with a shotgun, which he pumped to intimidate them.

The American Knights is one of the largest and most aggressive Klan groups in the country. Largely led by men with criminal records, the American Knights was once characterized by a Center spokesman as "the bully-boy Klan."