Read the 17-page court decision HERE. If this link fails, go to Supreme Court Opinions, then in the upper left, type in Imperial Klans of America, then click Search; a link to this decision will come up.
The original case stemmed from the assault on Jordan Gruver by four members of the Imperial Klans of America (IKA) at the Meade County Fair in July 2006. In addition to criminal charges, Gruver filed a civil action in the Meade Circuit Court against three of the assailants (Hensley, Watkins, and Cowles) and also against Ron Edwards, who was not present when the assault occurred. Gruver also named IKA, which was an unincorporated association controlled by Edwards, as a defendant. The SPLC represented Gruver.
Gruver pursued his claims against Hensley and Edwards in a jury trial that was held in November 2008. The jury in the case returned a verdict in favor of Gruver in excess of $2.5 million. Of that amount, over $1.5 million was in compensatory damages against Hensley and Edwards, with Edwards being found to be responsible for 20% of the amount, and $1 million in punitive damages for which Edwards was solely responsible. Edwards appealed from the final judgment of $1.3 million. In short, Gruver claimed that Edwards was reckless in selecting and supervising his recruiters and that he encouraged their violence.
According to the court documents, Edwards raised three allegations of error at the trial level. The appeals court agreed with one of the allegations; namely, that there wasn't enough evidence to hold Edwards liable. The issue was whether a special relationship existed between the actor (here, Edwards) and the tortfeasor (here, the assailants). The court concluded that such a special relationship did not exist in this case. Edwards was the head of the association and the assailants were members. Although the members were encouraged to recruit new members, the court couldn't see where Edwards had any ability to control their activities in this regard. Note that the appeals court extensively cites the Carneyhan case as a precedent.
The court concluded that Edwards did not command or direct the assailants to assault Gruver or anyone else. He did not direct the assailants to go to the Meade County Fair, and he had no knowledge that they had done so. The fact that some of the assailants may have also attempted to recruit members for the IKA while at the fair is of no consequence. Under the standards of the Carneyhan case, it cannot be said that Edwards had any duty of reasonable care toward Gruver or anyone else the assailants might have assaulted that day. He did not have the requisite degree of control over them as is required by the Carneyhan case. Thus, the court concluded that the original trial court erred in not granting a directed verdict in favor of Edwards.
However, Ron Edwards is not off the hook. The court also concluded that while Edwards, who represented himself, was entitled to a directed verdict, he failed to also move the trial court for a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. As in Carter v. Driver, 316 S.W.2d 378 (Ky. 1958), the judgment here should be merely reversed for a new trial rather than reversed for the entry of a judgment notwithstanding the verdict because of Edwards’s failure to so move. Nevertheless, the court also held that should the evidence in a new trial be the same as in the first trial, then the trial court should grant Edwards’s motion for a directed verdict.
What this means is that Ron Edwards is not completely exonerated, but that the appeals court has merely remanded the case back to the original court for possible re-trial. And SPLC counsel Richard Cohen states he intends to appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court; Cohen told the Courier-Journal “If the decision is allowed to stand, it will give free rein to hate group leaders like Edwards to unleash dangerous men on the public without any consequence to themselves...If hate group leaders like Edwards can send violent men out into the public to do their bidding but not be responsible for their actions, everyone is in danger.” As of this post, the SPLC has published no official reaction on their website.
Ron Edwards himself couldn't be reached for comment, but his attorney, Kyle Burden, praised the decision. “Ron Edwards did not receive a fair trial partly because of a lack of evidence establishing a nexus between Ron Edwards and the assailants,” said Burden, who argued that prejudicial and immaterial evidence was introduced at trial. Burden also noted that the SPLC's efforts to take the IKA compound in Dawson Springs have been stymied because the land was in Edwards' son's name and safe from being taken.
The bad side is that Ron Edwards may have to spend more money on another defense; whether he can raise the funds is problematic. The good side is that the SPLC will ALSO have to spend money to appeal the decision. And considering they've overreached themselves by attacking the pro-family lobbies, most notably the Family Research Council, their donation spigot could begin drying up. Perhaps the SPLC will have to start tapping that offshore bank account they set up in the Cayman Islands to escape tax liability. The end of the SPLC could be at hand.
A number of supportive comments have been posted. First, from the Lexington Herald-Dispatch:
The SPLC is a fraud outfit who slanders conservative/heritage/Christian/non-liberal organizations as "hate groups." Basically, any organization that disagrees with liberal conventional wisdom or talking points, the SPLC labels a hate group, without any evidence aside from the SPLC's own extremist propaganda. ... [more]
The SPLC labels as "hate" anything that disagrees with leftist propaganda, and thus, the SPLC has exactly zero credibility. They're doing the same thing with the word "hate" that liberals have done in the past with words like "racist." You know, disagree with a lib, then you're a racist. Espouse conservative views, then you're a racist, and so on, until the word loses all meaning and people no longer take the issue seriously. The word "racist" is a perfect example. The race card has been played so many times that no one takes it seriously anymore - i.e., nothing is racist when everything is. "Hate" is now another liberal buzz word. Conservative speech is now, according to them, hate speech. Conservative groups are "hate" groups. Broadbrushing everything as hate, the way libs do, actually does a disservice to those who really are victims of actual hate groups, because lumping everything together and equating conservative groups with real hate groups only dilutes everything and makes it more difficult for people to take the issue seriously.
The SPLC is itself a left wing hate group.
Any decision against the S.P.L.C. is a good decision. They are much bigger hate-dealers than the Klan and anyone else ever was, and that is saying something. I have nothing for the Klan, they would just as soon kill me as look at me but the S.P.L.C. are real clowns who cash-in on misery, they employ hatred.
The purpose of the Southern Poverty Law Center is Orwellian. They shut down dissent by demonizing with rhetoric. They say disagreeing with liberalism is hate, when they are the actual purveyors of it. They could be renamed the "ministry of love", and begin daily sessions called "two minutes of hate".
And from the Louisville Courier-Journal:
aaron peltier wrote 1/15/2011 5:04:33 PM:
Congratulations to the Imperial Klan’s of America and to the then Imperial Wizard Ron Edwards. God I can’t believe this happened. What a major victory this is! It was a fight between David and Goliath and you defeated Goliath. You and the IKA where attacked by the Southern Poverty Law Firm and you had to completely legally defend yourself in civil court without any attorney.