Hatewatch

Despite Testimony on Past Misuse, Klan Boss Solicits More Funds

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.”

Further damaging Edwards’ credibility within the white supremacist movement is RonEdwardsReport.info, a website run by former IKA members who detail accusations of Edwards mistreating his wife, misusing funds and snitching out former IKA member Kale Kelly to the FBI. The website calls Edwards a “cancer to our cause and a disgrace to real Klansman [sic].”

Past IKA supporters may also be dissuaded from sending Edwards any more funds if they realize that any money they send could wind up in the hands of the SPLC unless and until Edwards pays off his share of the damages, which total about $1.5 million (along with the $1 million in punitive damages, the verdict included $1.5 million in compensatory damages, apportioned among Edwards and two of the IKA members who carried out the assault). Any money collected by the SPLC from Edwards will be passed on to its client in the Meade County case, Jordan Gruver, who was beaten viciously by Edwards’ followers at a 2006 county fair.

Meanwhile, Edwards announced that “Brother Jim Walters,” an IKA member living in Nancy, Ky., will serve as the new conductor of the IKA train wreck in the official role of “Acting Imperial Wizard.”

“I will be assisting Jim with e-mails and providing other instructions during this transition of responsibilities,” Edwards wrote.

And, no doubt, keeping an eye out for any checks in the mail.