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  August 28, 2000 

Aryan-busting trial starts today
High security and higher stakes

Bill Morlin - Staff writer

Coeur d'Alene _ The showdown trial begins today in Coeur d'Alene.

Famed civil rights attorney Morris Dees takes on Richard Butler and his
Aryan Nations.

Dees and Coeur d'Alene attorneys Norm Gissel and Ken Howard represent a
mother and her son whose car was hit by five bullets from Aryan guards in

Attorneys for Victoria and Jason Keenan say their case against the Aryan
Nations is "just a civil trial" to compensate the shooting victims.

But it promises to be a lot more than that.

With extraordinary security and media attention, the case is becoming the
region's version of the O.J. Simpson trial.

A sampling:

=95The street outside the Kootenai County Courthouse will be closed to
traffic as a security measure for the expected two-week duration of the
trial. Parking in the area will be restricted.

=95Special video cameras are being installed outside the courthouse.

=95An army of police and sheriff's deputies will patrol the courthouse
grounds and downtown Coeur d'Alene.

=95Reporters and photographers covering the civil trial have been required t=
display special photo-identification badges.

=95Dees and the other plaintiffs attorneys and witnesses are being guarded
around-the-clock by a sizable security team from the Southern Poverty Law

"It's something like I've never seen," one of the plaintiffs' attorneys
said Friday.

The trial is made-for-television courtroom drama that won't be on TV.

First District Court Judge Charles Hosack has banned cameras from the
courtroom, and the county commissioners have banned them from the=

Jury selection is expected to take most of the first day in court.

The names of 72 potential jurors -- all residents of Kootenai County --
were released to attorneys on Thursday.

The list includes brief biographical information, but the attorneys will
get more detailed information with individual questioning during the
selection of 12 jurors and two alternates.

A nationally recognized jury-profiling expert is reportedly helping the
plaintiffs' attorneys and investigators analyze the list of prospective

While jury selection grinds on, the real excitement may be outside the

There, neo-Nazi skinheads and Aryan Nations members are expected to gather
to support Butler and the Aryan Nations.

Anti-Aryan activists, including Jewish Defense League leader Irv Rubin,
also are expected to be in town.

More police officers than reporters greeted Rubin at a Sunday press
conference at Spokane International Airport, where he pledged his "absolute
best behavior."

Although Rubin plans no protests, he said he wants thousands of area
residents to attend the trial to show, for once, Coeur d'Alene doesn't
tolerate hate. He fears a small turnout, acknowledging many local Jews
asked him to stay in Los Angeles for fear his presence will spark=

Rubin criticized city leaders and businesses, specifically Mayor Steve Judy
and Kootenai County Commissioner Ron Rankin, for allowing the Aryan Nations
to thrive.

"The establishment in the Coeur d'Alene area has been absent," Rubin said
to three reporters, four police officers and a sheriff's deputy. "They want
to ignore it because of the First Amendment. Well, we have a First
Amendment too. We have to get out on the streets and protest."

Rubin reiterated any protest today would be in the form of numbers, not

National hate leaders also are watching the showdown.

"Another civil lynching trial is starting on Monday," Tom Metzger, leader
of the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), said Friday in Internet postings.

Metzger and WAR were successfully sued by Dees in 1990 in Portland. Dees
and his Southern Poverty Law Center represented a black man who was
murdered by skinheads associated with Metzger and WAR.

A Portland jury awarded Dees and the victim's son $9 million, a judgment
that is still being collected from contributions that are sent to WAR.

Metzger told his followers and other racists, "I don't believe there is a
chance in hell that Aryan Nations will win this case."

"I know what Northwest juries are like and the Aryan Nations case is worse
than mine was," Metzger said.

But the WAR leader, who lives in Fallbrook, Calif., urged his fellow
racists to "show solidarity of the spirit" and rally behind Butler.

"Richard Butler is 82 years old and his race is nearly run," Metzger said.

"We should all let him know that no matter how this witch hunt ends up, he
is respected by the struggle" for white supremacy.

The plaintiffs have 29 people on their witness list, including an expert in
security training and procedures.

Defense attorney Edgar Steele told the court he plans to call only seven
witnesses, including Butler and Aryan guards Jesse Warfield and John
Yeager, who are both in prison.

Steele said the defense doesn't have the funds to hire an expert, and can't
find one who's willing to testify for Butler and the Aryan Nations.

"I think they're making a big deal out of something that's no more than
just a typical civil trial," Warfield said Friday after being transferred
from the state prison to the Kootenai County Jail.

"It's Morris Dees that's making this trial a media hoopla," Warfield said.

He said sheriff's deputies told him he would have to wear a bulletproof
vest in the courtroom and while he's being transported.

"I will not do that," Warfield said. "That's promoting an assassination. I
put my life in God's hands."

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