“[IKA leader] Mr. [Ron] Edwards is a very dangerous man to me,” Kale Kelly testified in the second day of a trial in Brandenburg, Kentucky. “He promotes violence and hatred [toward] anybody who he feels threatens him: minorities, Jews, blacks. I’ve lived with him. I know this.”
Kelly was once a trusted member of Edwards’s inner circle. His testimony on the second day of the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) trial against Edwards, struck a blow to the heart of the Klan leader’s defense that he does not encourage his members to commit violent acts. The testimony also contradicted Edwards’ earlier testimony that he never told Kelly to kill anyone.
The SPLC sued Edwards of Dawson Springs, Ken. in civil court, contending that members of his Klan group attacked and severely injured Jordan Gruver, a 16-year-old boy of Panamanian descent they thought was “an illegal spic.” Also named as a defendant was Jarred Hensley of Cincinnati, who served two years in state prison for assaulting Gruver at a county fair in northwest Kentucky. The SPLC hopes to win damages large enough to shut down the IKA, one of the largest Klan groups in America.
Kelly testified that he met privately with Edwards late one night in the guard shack outside Edwards’ former home in Powderly, Ken. Edwards gave Kelly the rank of lieutenant in a secret cell whose mission was to injure and kill blacks, Jews, people of mixed race and anyone who opposed Edwards. The Klan leader showed Kelly a photograph of several people wearing camouflage clothing, one with a circle drawn around his head. “He told me to take care of this individual … by any means, to kill him,” Kelly testified.
Then Edwards showed Kelly a slip of paper with a name on it: “Morris Dees.” Edwards wanted Dees dead because of an SPLC lawsuit against the Aryan Nations, an Idaho-based neo-Nazi group. After instructing Kelly to assassinate Dees, Edwards burned the paper in a candle flame.
To carry out the plot, Kelly intended to track Dees in Idaho, with a weapon Edwards supplied. In April 1999, within days of Kelly's planned departure, the plot was thwarted by an FBI informant who had infiltrated the Aryan Nations. Kelly served time in federal prison on weapons charges; Edwards was never charged for his role in the plot.
Kelly, now married and employed, broke down in tears, telling the jury he was a changed man.
Joshua Cowles, a former IKA member, also testified that Edwards asked him to use violence. As a new recruit, he was ordered to beat up a man who had an IKA tattoo, that Edwards wanted covered up.
Cowles said Edwards spent money on himself that was intended for his organization. For instance, when the IKA received over $400 earmarked for Hensley’s legal defense in a criminal case, Edwards instead used most of the money to pay his bills.
“The IKA is about one man and one man only — and that’s Ron Edwards. 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,” he said.
Because of that greed, Edwards encourages his Klansman to recruit aggressively, according to testimony from Cowles and former IKA member Matthew Roberts. Roberts testified that business cards with Klan contact information — the same ones distributed at Meade County Fairgrounds the night Klansmen assaulted Gruver — were kept in the guardhouse office at the IKA compound. In earlier testimony, Edwards claimed he’d never seen the cards. Roberts said the men thought the fair would be fertile recruiting turf for the Klan because, he said, Brandenburg “is a redneck town.”
Spectators at the trial Thursday included Supreme White Alliance members and a man in full camouflage uniform with an IKA patch. Several other men in fatigues with black berets sat near the entrance to the Meade County Courthouse, where security has been beefed up for the trial. Also outside the courthouse, Edwards’ son, Steven conferred with his father. Steven Edwards leads the Supreme White Alliance (SWA), a racist skinhead group. Hensley is now the second-highest ranking member of SWA. A former member was one of two men charged in connection with a plot against President-Elect Barack Obama.
On Friday, Jordan Gruver is expected to testify about his injuries.