$6m judgment may ruin far-right group

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One of the most virulent white supremacist groups in the United States could be forced to disband after a jury delivered a $6.3m (£4.3m) judgment in favour of a woman and her young son who were assaulted by guards outside the group's remote compound. The jury found Richard Butler, leader of the Aryan Nations, reckless and negligent in not preventing the attack on the woman, Victoria Keenan, and her son, Jason.

One of the most virulent white supremacist groups in the United States could be forced to disband after a jury delivered a $6.3m (£4.3m) judgment in favour of a woman and her young son who were assaulted by guards outside the group's remote compound. The jury found Richard Butler, leader of the Aryan Nations, reckless and negligent in not preventing the attack on the woman, Victoria Keenan, and her son, Jason.

Ms Keenan said she and her son were beaten and shot at by two guards at the Aryan Nations compound in a remote area of Idaho. She said their car was chased by a truckload of armed guards and finally forced off the road. The guards apparently mistook the backfiring of their car for gunshots.

The lawsuit was brought on the Keenans' behalf by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, an association based in Alabama that uses the law to combat racial hatred and discrimination. The SPLC and its head, Morris Dees, saw the case as a means of destroying the Aryan Nations by forcing the group into bankruptcy and out of its Idaho headquarters.

The SPLC has brought five similar cases before, winning large settlements against such groups as the Ku Klux Klan. This week's verdict in Idaho was unanimous.

However, Mr Butler, who is 83, said the verdict would not ruin him. "I'm still in business, and I'll remain in business until the day I die," he said after the verdict. Three other officials of the group, also ordered to pay compensation running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, were equally defiant.

Mr Butler's former chief of staff, Michael Teague, said: "You can shut down the Aryan Nations, but you can't shut down the white message." He vowed to appeal. His lawyer had argued that he was not responsible for the guards' conduct, as they were off duty.

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