Klan Leader, Former Member Ordered to Pay $2.5M in Attack

The lawsuit is part of a strategy to bankrupt hate groups around the country.

Nov. 17, 2008— -- More than two years after he was surrounded by skinheads, called racial slurs and kicked with steel-toed boots, Jordan Gruver says he still lives in fear.

Gruver, now 19, was attacked at a Kentucky county fair in 2006 by members of the Imperial Klans of America, believed to be the second largest Ku Klux Klan faction in the United States. They called him a "spic" and "illegal immigrant," broke his jaw and left him too afraid to leave his house.

A jury awarded Gruver $2.5 million Friday from Imperial Wizard Ron Edwards, the leader of the Imperial Klans of America, and former Klansman Jarred Hensley, holding them responsible for the attacks.

"I didn't smile, I didn't jump up and down after hearing the verdict. I cried. I plain out bawled my eyes out. I don't know why," Gruver told ABC News.

"I have no more joy in my life."

Watch the full story tonight on Nightline at 11:35 E.T.

Though Edwards said during an interview with ABC News that he does not condone violence and "regrets" the attack on Gruver, the Southern Poverty Law Center and others who monitor hate groups say the Klan has in the last few years boosted its membership by recruiting violent skinheads and neo-Nazis, trading in the noose for pipe bombs, white robes for army fatigues.

The Klan has associated with men like Hensley, who the center fears may be the new face of a more vicious Klan. Hensley, who split from the Imperial Klans, appeared to have few qualms about using violence.

"If something goes against you, then violence usually takes care of it. You have to do violence. Violence has been in America since the beginning of time," Hensley, who pleaded guilty to attacking Gruver, told ABC News.

Hensley said that the Klan was "trying to be invisible these days and I'm completely against being so called invisible. I think you should be outlandish with your belief systems. You should let the world know that you are what America calls so called racist that you want the best for your people."

He denied that he beat up Gruver, but said he did not feel bad for him. "We have all these nonwhites that come to our country and leach off what we built and created and they take it and try to use it for their own benefits," he said.

The center, which represented Gruver, says hate crimes are on the rise, driven primarily by bias against Hispanics. Though Gruver is of Panamanian Indian descent, the center said his attackers believed he was Hispanic. Police also say they have seen a surge in race-related incidents since Barack Obama was elected.

Halting Money to Hate Groups

Gruver's case was the latest in a series of lawsuits brought by lawyers at the center that has sought to bankrupt hate groups around the country.

The center argued that Edwards should be held responsible for Gruver's beating, though he didn't take part in it or order it. Edwards should be held responsible because he created an atmosphere that encouraged hate and racially motivated violence and because he knew his members were prone to violence, the center claims.

"He should expect that they're going to commit acts of violence against the very people he's demeaned and told that they are worth less than humans," said Morris Dees, co-founder of the center.

"If you stop the money, you'll cut the organization off," he said.

The center says the lawsuit may cripple the Imperial Klans of America and may force Edwards to hand over the group's 15-acre compound in Dawson Springs, Ky. Edwards says the group operates in 28 states and 14 countries and has 10,000 people on its e-mail list.

Edwards, however, was unrepentant and said he would do everything he could to continue to promote his views. It is unclear whether he will be forced to hand over the compound -- he claims that he has no assets, that his son owns the compound and that he may start a new Klan sect under a new name.

"No matter what, I'm not going nowhere. I'll be doing the same thing today as I'm going to do tomorrow," he said.

The verdict brought a dramatic conclusion to the confrontation between Gruver and his attackers, and between Edwards and the center. Edwards and Hensley represented themselves and cross-examined Gruver. Several self-proclaimed skinheads and neo-Nazis watched from the audience.

A former Klansman testified that Edwards plotted in 1999 to kill the center's Dees, who was suing the Aryan Nation at the time. The FBI disrupted the plot and Edwards was never charged. He denied plotting to kill Dees.

Gruver, who was 16 at the time of the July 2006 attack, said he was in line at a concession stand at the Meade County Fair when he ran into a group of four skinheads, including Andrew Watkins and Hensley, who the center says were recruiting for Edwards' group.

Gruver said Hensley and Watkins threw whiskey in his face. When he turned to run, Gruver said Hensley hit him in the jaw, knocking him down. He was kicked him with steel-toed boots as he lay curled in the fetal position.

"I feel like there's a thousand people hitting me. They kicked me so many times, and so fast, that I could say I saw eight people there. I saw eight pairs of feet. That's how I see it," Gruver said.

"All I could do was curl up like a baby."

When he was arrested, according to testimony at trial, Hensley told police, ""He's a spic, he's illegal, why are you arresting me?"

Hensley denied making the statement and denied attacking Gruver.

Gruver, who was born in the United States, said the attack left him physically and emotionally shattered. He suffered a broken jaw and broken ribs. He said he has frequent nightmares and has often been too afraid to leave his house. A year after the attack, he slit his wrists in a suicide attempt, his mother said.

"I was alive, then I died, but I survived," he said.

Racial Violence

Watkins and Hensley were sentenced to three years in prison for the attack. Watkins and Joshua Cowles, a former Klan "exalted Cyclops" who allegedly participated in the attack, agreed to confidential settlements with Gruver.

At trial, Edwards argued that he did not know that the men who beat Gruver were at the fair and that they were not on an official recruiting trip. The Imperial Klans' official rules say members should not do anything illegal while recruiting, though the center says the rule is merely a way to insulate Edwards from legal liability.

Edwards said he is being persecuted for his "racialist" beliefs. "I believe basically [Dees is] trying to take away my freedom of speech and under the Bill of Rights and our Constitution," Edwards said. "I have the right to my views as long as I don't hurt nobody and I haven't."

The center says Edwards and the Imperial Klans promoted racial violence, encouraging members to beat and kill gays and racial and ethnic minorities, and negligently supervised his followers.

The center says the group refers to blacks as "mud people" and the "beasts of the fields."

Edwards' compound also hosts Nordic Fest, a white supremacist festival, which Cowles, Watkins and Hensley allegedly attended, according to the center. The center says members at the festival were told to kill Latinos and send their bodies "back to Mexico in boxes."

"This man is violent and he gets people around him who see him as a little God and they want to get next to him," said Dees. "Their lives are meaningless, most of them have served time in prison, they've got no families, no children that they're worried about, they're just mean-spirited human beings that are losers in life and they see Ron Edwards as a God and they want to please him."

Even if the lawsuit ends Edwards' group, Hensely said he has no plans to go anywhere.

"This ain't the last you'll see of me at all whatsoever and I guarantee that me, you'll see me all across the news and everything," he said.