Boise -- The Idaho Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the prison term imposed on a former Aryan Nations security chief, whose 1998 confrontation with a motorist and her son set the stage for bankrupting the white supremacists.
The three-member court unanimously rejected the contention of Edward Jessie Warfield that consideration of his racist beliefs in imposing the sentence violated his First Amendment rights.
Judge Karen Lansing, writing for the court, acknowledged the constitutional right of individuals to speak and associate with those of similar beliefs, racist or otherwise.
But she cited previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings that did not prohibit consideration of racial hatred in criminal sentencing.
Warfield, 45, originally from Missouri, was on the Hayden Lake, Idaho, compound's perimeter with two other Aryan Nations members the July night that Victoria Keenan and her son, Jason, drove by.
Their car backfiring prompted Warfield and the others to think shots were being fired at the compound. They chased the Keenans in a pickup, and when the car would not stop, they fired shots into it, driving it into a ditch.
Warfield allegedly went to the driver's window, grabbed Victoria Keenan by the hair, struck her in the arm with the butt of his gun, called her a vulgar name and declared, "Because you're white, we're gonna let you live today."
In a plea bargain, Warfield was sentenced to five years in prison with no parole for the first two, and the incident laid the groundwork for the civil suit that resulted in the Keenans' being awarded $6.3 million in damages.
Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler was forced to give up the compound and rights to the name in partial settlement of the judgment.
Warfield, who was paroled in May after serving 2-1/2 years and is living in Coeur d'Alene, contended District Judge Craig Kosonen was wrong in refusing to accept his declaration that he had become racially tolerant.
Lansing concluded that while the Keenans are white and therefore not a direct target of Warfield's racial bias, "Warfield's statement to Victoria Keenan that she would be allowed to live 'because you're white' conveys a chilling implication that if the Keenans had been members of a racial minority they might have been killed."
Warfield was granted early release after convincing members of the parole board that he had abandoned his racist views and become tolerant.