Jury finds against Aryan Nations for $6.3 million September 7, 2000 Web posted at: 10:47 p.m. EDT (0247 GMT) From staff and wire reports COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho --A jury in Idaho found the leader of a white supremacist group, his chief of staff and two security guards liable for $6.3 million in damages for a 1998 attack on a woman and her son outside the Aryan Nations headquarters. The jury found that Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler, the group and its corporate entity, Saphire, Inc., were negligent in the selection, training and supervision of the security guards who assaulted Victoria and Jason Keenan two years ago. Butler spoke briefly outside the courtroom, comparing himself to some biblical figures and also declaring northern Idaho a haven for racists, according to KREM-TV of Spokane. "You can't stop us," the station quoted Butler as saying. "This is nothing," Butler told KOMO-TV of Seattle. "We have planted seeds. Most of north Idaho now is filled with the people who escaped multiculturalism or diversity or whatever you want to call it." The Keenans hugged each other tearfully after the verdict. The jury found Butler, the Aryan Nations and Saphire Inc. 90 percent negligent; Butler and the Aryan Nations are liable for $4.8 million of the award. Butler's chief of staff, Michael Teague, was found 10 percent negligent and liable for $600,000. The former guards Jesse Warfield and John Yeager -- who are serving prison terms for the assaults on the Keenans -- were also found liable for punitive damages. Yeager was assessed $100,000 in punitive damages and Warfield $500,000 in punitive damages. The jury also awarded Victoria Keenan $250,000 and Jason Keenan $80,000 in compensatory damages. Victoria Keenan and her son Jason said they were attacked by the guards after their car backfired outside the group's compound near Coeur d'Alene. They said the men chased them in a truck, shot at them and forced them into a ditch. The Keenans were then beaten with rifle butts. Two of the guards are serving prison terms for the attack, and a third is still a fugitive. Plaintiffs' attorney Morris Dees argued that Butler and Teague were reckless and negligent in overseeing the group's security staff. In closing arguments, he urged the jury to award the Keenans $1.26 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages to send a message to hate groups across the United States. Edgar Steele, who represents Butler, Teague and the Aryan Nations, said the men acted on their own. He said former guards Jesse Warfield and John Yeager had disobeyed the group's regulations and gotten drunk before the attack on the Keenans. Warfield and Yeager testified that they did attack the Keenans but refused to implicate Butler. Steele suggested that the jury award the Keenans between $4,000 and $10,000 for their distress. Dees, a founder of the Montgomery, Alabama, based Southern Poverty Law Center, had said he hoped to bankrupt the white supremacist group. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Aryan Nations as a highly organized and dangerous group, with chapters in more than a dozen U.S. states and ties to organizations in Europe. Dees has been successful in taking on white supremacist groups. In 1987, the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $7 million verdict against the United Klans after the killing of a black man in Alabama, forcing the group to give its headquarters to the victim's mother. It also convinced a Portland, Oregon, jury to award $12.5 million to to the family of a Somalian immigrant who was beaten to death with a baseball bat by skinheads from a group called White Aryan Resistance. Steele urged the jury to look past Butler and the Aryan Nations' racist anti-Semetic views. "He may not be, in your eyes, an attractive man, and you may not like what he says or thinks ... but he's got a right to believe what he wants as long as it doesn't hurt people," Steele said. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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