KKK Leader Convicted in Virginia

Associated Press/June 23, 1999
By David Reed

Hillsville, Va. -- An all-white jury convicted a Ku Klux Klan leader of cross-burning today, rejecting claims by his black ACLU lawyer that he was legally exercising his right to free speech.

The jury took 25 minutes to convict Barry Black of Johnstown, Pa., of violating a Virginia law against burning a cross to intimidate others.

Black was fined $2,500, but spared jail time. Black, 51, could have been sentenced to as much as five years in prison.

Prosecutors said Black, an imperial wizard with the International Keystone Knights of the Klan, led a rally in which 18 robed and hooded Klansmen held torches as they stood around a burning cross. The August gathering was on private property with the owner's consent.

The Klan leader's lawyer, David Baugh of the American Civil Liberties Union, argued: "The cross was burned as a part of their ceremony, not because they want to intimidate anyone. Mr. Black has the right to express, by sign or gesture, any feelings he has."

Baugh told the jury he knows the Klan hates blacks, but "in America we have the right to hate."

Prosecutor Greg Goad said Black has every right to freedom of speech. "What is different here is that nobody has the right to intimidate others,"Goad said.

He said Black indicated his intent to intimidate to a deputy on the way to jail. "Mr. Black said, `When is the white man going to stand up to the blacks and Mexicans in this neighborhood?'"the prosecutor said.

Less than 1 percent of the 26,000 residents of Carroll County in the mountains of southwestern Virginia are black.

Before the case went to trial, Baugh said he found the KKK's views offensive but took the Klan leader on as a client because "we cannot afford any erosion of the First Amendment.''

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