Aryan leader's woes have just begun

Dees wants Butler's assets, Aryan trademark

Spokane Spokesman Review/September 8, 2000
By Bill Morlin

The legal woes for Richard Butler just started with Thursday's whopping $6.3 million jury award.

Morris Dees wants to leave the 82-year-old Aryan Nations founder on the street, with just the clothes on his back. The co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center says he even wants to take away the trademark name "Aryan Nations" from Butler. "We want to retire it," Dees said after the jury's verdict.

Dees is expected to take legal steps immediately to seize personal property belonging to Butler and the Aryan Nations to satisfy damages awarded to plaintiffs Victoria and Jason Keenan.

Butler is personally responsible for $297,000 in compensatory damages and $4.8 million in punitive damages. To collect, Dees and plaintiff's attorneys Ken Howard and Norm Gissel will file legal papers laying claim to Butler's property.

If Butler's attorney, Edgar Steele, wants to appeal the jury's decision, he must post a bond 11/2 times the amount -- or about $9 million.

Ultimately, a sheriff's sale may be scheduled to sell off Butler's property and possessions to satisfy the judgment. The time frame for such a sale isn't clear, but Dees made it clear after the jury's verdict that he will move quickly.

The 20-acre compound and its collection of buildings, including an old farmhouse, are appraised at $200,000.

Butler's personal assets include a tractor, printing equipment and a computer that hosts his Aryan Nations site on the Internet. His corporation, Saphire Inc., currently holds title to the property. Those legal papers were drafted so the property could be inherited by Butler's two daughters upon his death.

Prior to the eight-day trial, Dees filed legal motions, granted by 1st District Judge Charles Hosack, that prevent Butler from transferring or otherwise disposing of any of his property.

But Steele, Butler's Sandpoint attorney, later got those legal rulings amended to put himself in the first lien position. That means if the Aryan compound and its assets are sold at a sheriff's sale, the first $65,000 will go to Steele for his legal bills associated with the trial.

Dees said he may urge his clients not to go after co-defendant Michael Teague, the Aryan Nations former chief of staff. "I feel sorry for Michael Teague," Dees said. Teague supports himself and his wife and two children working as a roofer in Sandpoint.

"My clients are not heartless and neither are we."

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