The son of former Klan leader Jeff Berry and a friend have been charged in a brutal beating that left Berry in critical condition, effectively ending recent efforts to resuscitate the group in Indiana.
The son of former Klan leader Jeff Berry and a friend have been charged in a brutal July 1 beating that left Berry in critical condition, effectively ending recent efforts the pair had made to resuscitate the group in northern Indiana.
Jeff Berry, 53, was attending a barbecue party in Spencerville with his son, 35-year-old Anthony, and Anthony's friend, Fred Wilson, 21. Police say that Wilson confronted Jeff Berry about something at the party and then threw a lawn chair at him. As the two tussled, Anthony Berry allegedly ran 30 feet and punched his father in the head, continuing to beat the elder Berry even after he collapsed.
In the next few days, police arrested the younger Berry and Wilson. Anthony Berry was charged with aggravated battery and released on $10,000 bond. Wilson was charged with misdemeanor battery.
Police say they don't know why the fight erupted, but Jeff Berry was left in critical condition with a swollen brain stem. Doctors gave him only a 50% chance of survival and said that even if Berry lived, his life would never be the same.
State Police Detective Mark Heffelfinger told reporters that Anthony Berry and Wilson had recently tried to reinvigorate the Ku Klux Klan in the area. The two men were apparently behind Klan flyers that listed post office boxes registered to them as contact points for the group. Their names were not on the flyers.
The July attack came some 18 months after Jeff Berry's release from prison, where he served more than three years of a seven-year sentence for his role in holding two journalists at gunpoint in 1999. (The journalists were represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center in a civil suit that prompted authorities to bring the criminal charges against Berry.) Before being sent to prison, Berry was the national leader of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. At the time, the group was known as the largest and most aggressive Klan faction in America, with 27 chapters in 2000. Today, the American Knights is defunct.