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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/american/aryan-nations/press/Press_Summary.000908    
JASON HUNT/Press photo
Victoria Keenan kisses the hand of Morris Dees during a press conference
following the jury's verdict awarding the Keenans a total of $6.3 million.
Aryans lose

Jury awards Keenans total of $6.3 million after nine hours of deliberation

Staff writer

Friday, September 8, 2000

COEUR d'ALENE -- A jury levied the largest award in Idaho history Thursday
against white supremacist Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations organization.

The Kootenai County jury awarded assault victims Victoria Keenan and her
son, Jason, $6.3 million in total damages from Butler and three former
Aryan Nations figures.

Lead plaintiff attorney Morris Dees said the verdict is not only a victory
for the Keenans, but everyone who has been a victim of Aryan Nations
followers, including former Coeur d'Alene Priest Bill Wassmuth, whose house
was bombed in 1986, and slain Denver radio personality Alan Berg.

"This judgment bankrupts Butler, but he was bankrupt from the start because
his ideas are corrupt and evil," Dees said. "This group is nothing but a
cult. It has nothing whatsoever to do with God or religion. The jury made
that clear ... that they saw him as the cult leader."

Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Ala.,
said he intends to force Butler to turn his property over to the Keenans.

"We intend to take every single asset of Aryan Nations now and forever," he
said. "We even intend to take the name of Aryan Nations and close that sad
chapter in the history of Idaho."

By taking possession of the trademark, the Keenans can stop Butler from
using the Aryan Nations name again, Dees said.

Dees said he hopes to see the Aryan Nations compound converted to a
"tolerance center.".........

BEST COVERAGE at 9:30 am:

******5 stories in Seattle Post Intell.***********
Verdict goes against Aryan Nations
A jury yesterday awarded $6.3 million to a woman and her son who were
attacked by Aryan Nations guards outside the white supremacist group's
north Idaho headquarters. 
>> Racists mostly annoyance to Coeur d'Alene 
>> Butler's hatred fostered in childhood 
>> Southern lawyer emerged to alter climate of hate 
>> Butler heir apparent predicts race war 


The AP news story. 


Aryan Nations should pay $6.3 million to assaulted woman, son, jury says 

Sep. 7, 2000 | 10:02 p.m. 

By JOHN K. WILEY Associated Press Writer 

..."Edgar Steele, who represents Butler and the Aryan Nations, said he will
move for a new trial. If that fails, he will appeal and may also seek to
have the judgment amount reduced. Butler would have to post a $9 million
bond to appeal.

``I consider this area to be one of the last bastions of free speech in
America,'' Steele said. ``You can write the epitaph for that now.''.....


  September 8, 2000  
Verdict busts Butler
Jury orders Aryans to pay $6.3 million

Bill Morlin and Thomas Clouse / Staff writers

COEUR D'ALENE -- A jury returned a $6.3 million judgment Thursday against
the Aryan Nations, its founder Richard Butler and three former members.
The verdict in the civil trial means the jury believed the 82-year-old
white supremacist and his organization were guilty of "gross negligence''
in appointing security guards who carried out a 1998 assault on two
passers-by, Victoria and Jason Keenan.

The panel of three men and nine women awarded $250,000 to Victoria Keenan
and $80,000 to her 21-year-old son.

But the big punch came in punitive damages -- just the kind of award the
plaintiffs' attorneys believe will bankrupt the Aryan Nations.

The jury tagged Butler with $4.8 million in punitive damages and his former
chief of staff Michael Teague with $600,000.

Aryan guards Jesse Warfield and John Yeager were hit with $100,000 and
$500,000, respectively, in punitive damages.

"If it hadn't been for three of us, they would have gotten Butler for $100
million,'' said juror Judy Jacobson, a 45-yearold carpet layer from Spirit
Lake. "They wanted to bury the whole Aryan Nations,'' Jacobson told The
Spokesman-Review late Thursday night from her home.

Five other jurors contacted by the newspaper did not want to talk about the

To collect the award, civil rights attorney Morris Dees said he will move
immediately to seize the Aryan compound and all of Butler's assets except
the clothes on his back.

Dees said he will also take legal moves to gain ownership of the name
"Aryan Nations'' so he can retire it.

The co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center said he wants to turn the
Aryan hate compound into a school for tolerance.

After deliberating nine hours over two days, the jury returned its verdict
at 5 p.m. to a packed and well-guarded courtroom in the Kootenai County
Justice Building.

Butler arrived at the courthouse as police snipers patrolled the rooftops.

After being told of the judgment by his attorney Edgar Steele, Butler
walked outside, appearing somewhat stunned.

"This is nothing,'' Butler said of the award.

The man who founded the Aryan Nations two decades ago said his message of
white supremacy and separatism will live on despite the jury's decision.

"We have planted the seed,'' Butler said. "Most of North Idaho is fertile
with people who don't want multiculturalism.''

The Aryan Nations will live on, he said, despite the jury award.

"I'm still here,'' Butler shouted, getting into an old Pontiac LeMans.
"I'll remain in business until the day I die.''

Following Butler out of the courthouse was Teague, wearing a crewcut and a
$5 suit he bought in a thrift shop for the trial.

"They think this verdict is like a magic pill they can swallow to make the
Aryan Nations go away,'' Teague said.

"You can shut down the Aryan Nations, but you can't stop our hearts. You
can't stop our minds. The Aryan Nations will live as long as the white race
is alive.''

But others who've fought Butler and his minions of hate were jubilant after
the verdict.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, visiting Moscow, praised the jury for sending a
clear message that Idaho doesn't tolerate racism.

"This is a significant event,'' the governor said. "We finally, through a
court of law, could put a voice to how we feel, and I think the jury did a
great job.

"I think those 12 individuals spoke for hundreds of thousands of Idahoans,
and I'm very proud of that jury,'' Kempthorne said.

Coeur d'Alene Mayor Steve Judy said Butler "is not a member of our
community and never has been.

"He may call himself an American, but he's not one of us who live in Coeur
d'Alene,'' Judy said.

Dees and Law Center attorneys J. Richard Cohen and Peter Tepley teamed with
Coeur d'Alene attorneys Ken Howard and Norm Gissel for the suit.

The legal team is now expected to move immediately to seize all of Butler's
assets, including the 20-acre compound north of Hayden Lake.

"We even intend to take the name `Aryan Nations''' and retire it, Dees told
a press conference after the verdict.

Dees said he would like to turn the compound into a tolerance center so
school children can "go to the former seat of hatred and learn tolerance.''

Steele called the jury award an attempt to end free speech.

"I'll tell you, $5 million dollars of `We don't want you here' is a pretty
potent statement,'' Steele said. "That's what they said with this verdict:
`Take your hate out of this community.'''

Dees had asked the jury for slightly more than $11 million, and admitted he
was nervous when the panel didn't quickly return a verdict, stretching its
decision-making over two days.

But he beamed after learning he had won his eighth straight victory over a
major hate group in the United States.

"For too long the Aryan Nations compound in this county has been a haven
for violent racists,'' Dees said. "I hope that this jury verdict will put
an end to that.''

The Keenans, he said, "didn't bring this case for themselves alone.

"They brought this case also for many, many people in this nation who've
suffered from the violent racists who studied under the tutelage of Richard
Butler,'' Dees said.

He later mentioned ex-Aryans who assassinated a Jewish talk show host in
Denver in 1984 and ex-Aryan guard Buford Furrow, who is accused of killing
a Filipino-American postal carrier and shooting at children in a Jewish
day-care center last year.

Butler, Dees said, "has a right to hate, but he does not have a right to
hurt people and to teach other people to hurt.''

"He has a right to live in this community. He has a right to live in this

For those who might think he came to Coeur d'Alene "to bankrupt Mr. Butler
because of his views, I hope they see now that was not the case,'' Dees said.

"Certainly this judgment bankrupts Mr. Butler, but he was bankrupted to
start with because his ideas were corrupt and evil,'' Dees said.

"I hope the citizens of this community will see that this was not a case
that dealt with suppression of speech or ideas.

"I don't know of anywhere in this nation where free speech and free ideas
and tolerance is more rampant than in the great Northwest and in the
Panhandle of Idaho,'' Dees said.

"Probably few places in this nation would have tolerated Mr. Butler as long
as he was tolerated here.''

Victoria Keenan didn't answer questions, but delivered a brief statement at
a press conference she attended with Dees.

"I'd like to thank the justice system,'' she said. "It did prevail.'' "I'd
like to thank the jury: Thank you very much for your braveness.'' A small
white feather was intertwined in her braided hair.

"Most of all I'd like to thank my lawyers, everyone of them,'' said Keenan,
who is a Native American.

"I'd also like to thank my family for holding us together at this time.
Without them I don't think I could have done all this.''

Dees used the press conference to send a message to Butler, who wasn't in
the courtroom when the verdict was read.

"I'd like to say publicly for Mr. Butler to get the message: We consider
every single asset on that compound and anywhere else ... to be the
property of the plaintiffs in this case,'' Dees said.

"We will consider it a fraudulent transfer of assets if Mr. Butler moves
one single thing from that compound other than his personal clothes.''

Steele said there are several legal moves he can take, including requesting
a new trial.

"I'll tell you, I don't understand this result,'' Steele said.

"I considered this area the last bastion of free speech,'' but the jury's
verdict means "they just don't like his speech and they want it gone.''

Steele said he wasn't "necessarily surprised'' by the decision against Butler.

"But the numbers are way out of line,'' Steele said of the monetary judgment.

Butler "certainly doesn't have that kind of money,'' Steele said of the
$4.8 million.

" This would certainly put him out of business if he tried to pay it
today,'' Steele said.

Steele said in defending Butler, he "went up against seven lawyers.'' "I
think I held my own pretty well,'' he said. "What would I do different? I'm
not sure what that would be.''

"I'm not going to say the jury is wrong,'' Steele said. "They are members
of our community.'' The Keenans were injured in the assault by Warfield and
Yeager and "they deserved to be compensated,'' he said.

However, he did attack the police presence and media outside the trial.

"I think all of this hoopla -- this media circus, this big name attorney,
closed circuit TV -- I think we would have had a different result but for
all that stuff.''

Although he never filed a motion to move the trial, Steele argued that
media attention prior to and during the trial hurt his case.

"Pastor Butler was tried and lynched in the local media before and during
this trial,'' Steele said. After seeing the verdict, Steele said maybe he
should have asked to move the trial.

"I talked with pastor Butler. We felt we had the best chance of a fair
trial in the town that he lived. He may be a demon, but he's our demon.''

As his police officers took down barricades, Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Tom
Cronin said "it would have been unconscionable'' not to have a sizeable
police presence during the trial.

"The fact that nothing happened showed that we meant business and that we
were not going to tolerate anything here,'' Cronin said.

Vincent Bertollini, a self-described evangelist who heads the 11th Hour
Remnant Messenger, was present for the verdict, as he was throughout much
of the trial.

"I think the jury sent a message'' with the verdict, Bertollini said. "We
respect that message but we will continue to spread our message.''

"This isn't over,'' Bertollini said. " Dees hasn't won anything. "There are
still legal remedies available to Butler and Steele. Butler is going to be
on that property ... probably forever.''

Staff writer Betsy Russell contributed to this report.


  September 8, 2000  
Aryan leader's woes have just begun
Dees wants Butler's assets, Aryan trademark 
Related stories

Jesse Tinsley - The Spokesman-Review
Plaintiff Victoria Keenan kisses the hand of Morris Dees at a news
conference after Thursday's verdict awarding her and her son more than $6
million in damages. 

Bill Morlin - Staff writer

The legal woes for Richard Butler just started with Thursday's whopping
$6.3 million jury award.

Morris Dees wants to leave the 82-year-old Aryan Nations founder on the
street, with just the clothes on his back.

The co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center says he even wants to
take away the trademark name "Aryan Nations" from Butler.

"We want to retire it," Dees said after the jury's verdict.

Dees is expected to take legal steps immediately to seize personal property
belonging to Butler and the Aryan Nations to satisfy damages awarded to
plaintiffs Victoria and Jason Keenan.

Butler is personally responsible for $297,000 in compensatory damages and
$4.8 million in punitive damages.

To collect, Dees and plaintiff's attorneys Ken Howard and Norm Gissel will
file legal papers laying claim to Butler's property.

If Butler's attorney, Edgar Steele, wants to appeal the jury's decision, he
must post a bond 1 1/2 times the amount -- or about $9 million.

Ultimately, a sheriff's sale may be scheduled to sell off Butler's property
and possessions to satisfy the judgment.

The time frame for such a sale isn't clear, but Dees made it clear after
the jury's verdict that he will move quickly.

The 20-acre compound and its collection of buildings, including an old
farmhouse, are appraised at $200,000.

Butler's personal assets include a tractor, printing equipment and a
computer that hosts his Aryan Nations site on the Internet.

His corporation, Saphire Inc., currently holds title to the property. Those
legal papers were drafted so the property could be inherited by Butler's
two daughters upon his death.

Prior to the eight-day trial, Dees filed legal motions, granted by 1st
District Judge Charles Hosack, that prevent Butler from transferring or
otherwise disposing of any of his property.

But Steele, Butler's Sandpoint attorney, later got those legal rulings
amended to put himself in the first lien position.

That means if the Aryan compound and its assets are sold at a sheriff's
sale, the first $65,000 will go to Steele for his legal bills associated
with the trial.

Dees said he may urge his clients not to go after co-defendant Michael
Teague, the Aryan Nations former chief of staff.

"I feel sorry for Michael Teague," Dees said.

Teague supports himself and his wife and two children working as a roofer
in Sandpoint.

"My clients are not heartless and neither are we."

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