Monday, November 17, 2008
SPLC Strikes Again - Morris Dees Convinces All-White Jury To Award Jordan Gruver $2.5 Million In Damages Against Imperial Klans Of America
Skulduggery and judicial terrorism on the part of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have been previously covered on this blog. This latest story is just one more example of the SPLC's track record in using the civil justice system not merely to help its "clients" receive economic justice, but as an economic weapon of political warfare against advocacy groups with which they disagree.
After a three-day civil trial, a jury awarded $2.5 million in damages on Friday November 14th, 2008 to a Kentucky teenager who was severely beaten by members of a Ku Klux Klan group because the Klansmen mistakenly thought he was an illegal Latino immigrant. Full stories published by CNN, ABC News, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and WHAS Channel 11. Discussion on Stormfront and the Vanguard News Network Forum.
Trial summaries posted by the SPLC
- 11/15/2008: Trial Day 3 Update: SPLC Wins $2.5 Million Verdict for Teen in Klan Case
- 11/14/2008: Trial Day 3: Teen Describes Klan Beating in Final Day of Testimony
- 11/13/2008: Trial Day 2: Witness Details Edwards’ Plot to Kill Dees
- 11/13/2008: Kentucky Klan Trial Day 2: Bulletin
- 11/12/2008: Trial Day 1: Steel-Toed Boots Help SPLC Make Case Against Klan
After five hours of deliberations, the all-white jury of seven men and seven women found that the Imperial Klans of America (IKA) and its founder, Ron Edwards (pictured above left), wrongfully targeted 16-year-old Jordan Gruver, an American citizen of Panamanian and Native-American descent. The verdict included $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages against "Imperial Wizard" Ron Edwards himself, although Edwards took no part in the attack and there was no evidence that he directed any members of the IKA to attack non-whites. Morris Dees asked for a 70-30 split, with the IKA and Edwards assessed for 70 percent of the damages, and Jarred Hensley assessed for 30 percent.
Prior to the verdict, the SPLC openly bragged that it was much more than economic justice; a large damage award could break the Klan group, allowing the teen and the law center to seize the group's assets, including its headquarters, a 15-acre compound in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. "We look forward to collecting every dime that we can for our client and to putting the Imperial Klans of America out of business," said SPLC founder and chief trial attorney Morris Dees, who tried the case. The personal injury lawsuit was first filed in 2007, seeking up to $6 million in damages from the Imperial Klans of America and two of its leaders -- Edwards and "Grand Titan" Jarred R. Hensley.
The case stemmed from an incident at the Meade County Fair in Brandenburg, Kentucky back on the evening of July 29th, 2006. Jordan Gruver was at the fair, looking for his brother, when he noticed four Klansmen staring intently at him. The Klansmen had been originally sent to the fair strictly on a recruiting mission, passing out literature. Three of them, identified as Jarred Hensley, Andrew Watkins, and Joshua Cowles, confronted Gruver, allegedly taunting him with ethnic slurs, then spat on him, knocked him to the ground, and repeatedly struck and kicked him.
As a result of the attack, Gruver ended up with a broken jaw, broken left forearm, two cracked ribs and cuts and bruises. However, he reports continued medical and psychological problems to this day; he testified that he has suffered permanent nerve damage, psychological trauma, and doesn't leave his house and rarely sleeps more than two hours at a time because he has nightmares. Gruver even reportedly attempted to slash his wrists a year after the attack. He testified that he is unemployable as a result of his condition.
Gruver had originally also included Andrew Watkins, who was sentenced to three years in prison for the attack, and Joshua Cowles, who was present at the assault, in the suit. But both agreed to confidential settlements and were dropped from the suit. All three have already gone through Kentucy's criminal justice system, having struck plea bargains and serving time in the Kentucky state prison system. But Kentucky did not treat the assault as a hate crime.
At trial, Jarred Hensley denied participating in the attack but made no apologies for his racist views that demean minorities and immigrants.
And of course, the SPLC was able to find the typical "former Klan associate" who had "seen the light". In an attempt to bias the jury further against the IKA and Edwards, Dees convinced former IKA associate Kale Kelly to testify. Kelly, who left the group some time ago, testified he was told to kill Morris Dees because of the center's successful lawsuit in Idaho against the Aryan Nations, in which the SPLC took the Aryan Nation's compound to help satisfy the judgment against them. The plot was thwarted by the FBI in 1999. Kelly even cried on the witness stand during his testimony in a blatant attempt to further manipulate the jury.
Ron Edwards, who represented himself, told the jury he had nothing to do with the attack. "I stay within the law. I don't break the law," he said. Edwards also said that the incident was "unfortunate," but that he shouldn't be held liable because he didn't even know the men were going to the fair, which he tried to argue was not an official Klan recruiting trip. But at an earlier court deposition, Edwards may have hindered his cause by tattooing the phrase "Fuck SPLC" on his shaved head to demonstrate contempt for the center and its lawsuit. Richard Barrett, an experienced white nationalist leader who has actually won several lawsuits, posts this analysis of the case on his Nationalist.org website, in which he criticized Edwards' defense strategy of asserting his innocence, and instead suggested that Edwards should have gone on the offensive and "put the system on trial".
After the verdict, Edwards vowed that the SPLC will not get a single penny from him, and that even if they do seize his compound, the IKA will remain in business. The 15-acre IKA cmpound in Dawson Springs consists of of a guarded gate, a few trailers and vehicles, a playground, a wooden stage and a clearing for cross lightings. The compound is also the site of the Klan's annual Nordic Fest white power rally and music festival. The SPLC is expected to make an all-out bid to seize the compound; if they follow past precedence, they might even offer to forgive the rest of the judgment if Edwards voluntarily turns over the compound to them.
There is no single, centralized Ku Klux Klan. The Southern Poverty Law Center says the Imperial Klans of America is the second largest KKK group after the Brotherhood of Klans Knights, based in Marion, Ohio. Two other klan organizations recently in the public eye include Thomas Robb's Arkansas-based Knights Party, which hosts a White Pride Homeschool website, and the United Northern & Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, whose New Jersey chapter has been conducting a recent series of literature drops on Long Island, New York.
Commentary: Considering Jordan Gruver's continuing medical symptoms, there is clearly a civil case in order for him to secure economic justice to help him pay for continuing medical treatment. It is not unjust to require the three Klansmen who personally participated in the attack and who were convicted in the Kentucky criminal justice system to face civil justice as well.
However, it is questionable to include the IKA organization or its leader, Ron Edwards. There is no evidence that Edwards sanctioned or ordered the attack. And what could Edwards have done to stop it; he has no statutory power over his organization's membership. To sue Ron Edwards and the IKA in this case would be like suing the Alaska Republican Party and Randy Ruedrich because three Alaska Republican lawmakers were convicted of corruption-related charges; Ruedrich had no statutory authority over Tom Anderson, Pete Kott, or Vic Kohring.
It is the fact that the SPLC goes beyond merely seeking economic justice for its "clients" and uses the civil justice system to take down political organizations that transforms it from civil justice to judicial terrorism.