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Richard Butler, 86; Supremacist Founded the Aryan Nations

September 09, 2004|Elaine Woo | Times Staff Writer

The perpetrators were members of a group known as the Order, formed by several former Aryan Nations members. Butler managed to avoid prosecution himself, despite attempts in various jurisdictions to link him to crimes committed by his followers.

Until the Keenan case, the only major case filed against him alleged seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government by way of a series of crimes, including the attempted murder of federal officials, but Butler was acquitted along with 10 others by an Arkansas jury.

His fall came as the result of a new legal strategy devised by legendary civil rights attorney Morris Dees and others to stifle hate groups by crippling them financially.

Dees, who once described Butler as so evil that his eye "burned a hole through me," filed the case by Keenan against Butler and vowed to seize "every desk, typewriter and computer" at the compound.

Butler's main defense was that the guards were not authorized to conduct actions outside the compound, but that argument was greatly diminished by the sworn testimony of a former Aryan Nations guard, who told the court that the guards routinely operated off the premises because Butler "never told us not to."

The crushing $6.3-million court judgment left the Aryan Nations founder with no choice but to give up his sprawling backwoods haven. It was purchased by the Carr Foundation, which demolished the buildings and donated the property to a college.

Butler was melancholic at the loss, but unrepentant.

"What do you think, when you put 50 years of your life into something?" he told reporters at the compound after the verdict was announced. "When you work physically to build something, spend 25 years here, sure, it's hard to go. And yet I'm proud that I've been able to stand in the face of adversity. Remember, if you've ever worked for anything, if you ever stood for anything, you stand for it all of your life. They can take every material possession, but there's one thing they can't take from you, and that's your honor."

Researcher Lynn Marshall in Seattle contributed to this report.

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