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Trial of Klan group begins in Kentucky court

[JURIST] A court in Brandenburg, Kentucky began civil trial proceedings Wednesday against the Kentucky-based Imperial Klans of America over injuries sustained to then-16-year old Jordan Gruver, a US citizen of Panamanian descent, during a racially motivated beating allegedly perpetrated by members of the IKA. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of Gruver by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) [advocacy website] seeks to place responsibility for the beating on the IKA and Ron Edwards, the "Imperial Wizard" of the Klan. The beating occurred during an alleged Klan recruitment event at the Meade County Fair. According to testimony of those convicted of the battery in a separate criminal trial, Gruver was singled out because of his race. The SPLC claims in its pre-trial brief [text, PDF] that Edwards encourages violence against non-white minority populations, including Hispanics, and that Edwards' rhetoric is directly responsible for the battery committed against Gruver. The SPLC is seeking $6 million in compensatory damages for Gruver's prolonged physical injuries as well as an undisclosed amount in punitive damages from Edwards and the IKA. Settlements have already been reached with those convicted of the battery. Morris Dees, head attorney for the SPLC, said in a Q&A on the SPLC website Wednesday that the goal of the lawsuit is to "obtain justice for young Jordan Gruver. He has been scarred for life by this trauma. We also would like to obtain a crushing verdict that would put the Imperial Klans of America out of business." The SPLC has been successful in the past in winning enough in punitive damages to effectively shut down other notable hate groups, such as the Aryan Nation group in Idaho, and the United Klans of America in Alabama. Edwards has said that he will use whatever means necessary to keep the IKA alive. AP has more. The Courier-Journal has local coverage.

Hate groups like the KKK have recently been experiencing a resurgence [JURIST report] of membership in the United States that some observers connect with growing public attention to racially sensitive issues such as immigration. At the same time, federal and state authorities have been successful in a number of criminal prosecutions against alleged KKK members who committed hate crimes in the 1960s, although in October the Fifth Circuit vacated the conviction [JURIST report] of alleged Klansman James Ford Seale for his involvement in the 1964 deaths of two 19-year-old black teens.

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