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.

ByABC News
November 17, 2008, 11:04 AM

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.