On Friday, a jury awarded $2.5 million in to a Kentucky teenage boy for being severely beaten, after being mistaken for an illegal Latino immigrant by members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The boy, Jordan Gruver, then 16, was an American citizen of Native American and Panamanian heritage.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC), the verdict included $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages against so-called imperial grand wizard Ron Edwards, who was incidentally also just accused of plotting to kill SLPC co-founder and trial attorney Morris Dees.
A large damage award like this may well break the Klan group, the Law Center said, by forcing it to surrender its assets, including its 15-acre headquarters/compound in Dawson Springs, Kentucky.
"We look forward to collecting every dime that we can for our client and to putting the Imperial Klans of America out of business," said Dees, who tried the case, which alleged that Edwards, so-called lieutenant Jarred Hensley, and the Imperial Klans of America as a whole encouraged and provoked Klan members to use violence against minorities.
Testimony stated that three members of the KKK approached Gruver during a recruiting mission at the Meade County Fair in Brandenberg, Kentucky in July 2006. After shouting ethnic slurs against Latinos (which Gruver was not), spitting on Gruver and pouring alcohol on him, two of the men, including Hensley, knocked him to the ground and repeatedly struck and kicked him.
Gruver ended up with a broken jaw, a broken arm, two cracked ribs and multiple cuts and bruises. He said that he has suffered permanent nerve damage as well as psychological trauma, including nightmares which prevent him from sleeping.
After three days of such testimony, it took the all-white jury (why?) of seven men and seven women five hours to deliver their guilty verdict.
“The people of Meade County, Kentucky, have spoken loudly and clearly. And what they’ve said is that ethnic violence has no place in our society, that those who promote hate and violence will be held accountable and made to pay a steep price,” Dees said.