Award Against Ex-Klan Chief Reversed

Chris Kenning, Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), January 14, 2011

The Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed a $1.3 million civil judgment against the former leader of Kentucky-based Imperial Klans of America on Friday, ruling that there isn’t enough evidence to hold him liable in the beating of a minority teen by other Klansmen at a county fair.

Attorneys for the victim, 19-year-old Jordan Gruver, argued at a 2008 trial that Ron Edwards, then the Klan group’s Imperial Wizard, recklessly bred an atmosphere of hate and violence and should be held liable in Gruver’s July 2006 beating.

A Meade County jury agreed, granting a $2.5 million civil judgment against IKA member Jarred Hensley and Edwards, whom the jury held liable for $1.3 million of that amount. Two other assailants settled out of court with Gruver.

On Friday, a three-judge panel threw out that judgment, ruling that “there was no evidence that Edwards had encouraged or instructed any of the assailants to go to the fair” and “no evidence that he had encouraged or instructed the assailants” to assault Gruver.

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But Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represented Gruver, said his group would ask the Kentucky Supreme Court to reinstate the verdict.

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Depending on what the Kentucky Supreme Court decides, the case could be retried in Meade County. Cohen said his group hadn’t decided whether to pursue another trial.

Since the trial, the IKA, once the nation’s second-largest Klan group with 39 chapters in 26 states, has dwindled to two chapters, the law center said.

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