Aryan Nations trial timeline
A timeline looking back on the trial that broke the Aryan Nations, as reported by The Coeur d’Alene Press. The date is when the story was published.
Aug. 29, 2000
Day one of the trial
Jurors will be asked to decide whether Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations and his former chief of staff, Michael R. Teague, and others are responsible for assaulting Victoria Keenan and her son Jason on July 1, 1998.
The Keenans are represented by a team of lawyers, including Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center and Coeur d’Alene attorneys Norm Gissel and Ken Howard.
Butler arrived with lone attorney Edgar Steele of Sandpoint.
Georgia native Charles W. Hartman, 30, testified Butler gave him a container needed in a plot to make a firebomb to destroy the Marshall Mend Realty office in Coeur d’Alene.
Two former high-ranking Aryan Nations officials were suspicious that the other was behind incidents leading to a heightened state of security, eventually resulting in the assault on Victoria and Jason Keenan by security personnel.
Two years after the attack, Victoria Keenan said she remained afraid, ashamed and angry that she denied her American Indian Heritage when she and her son were chased and shot at by members of the Aryan Nations.
She and Jason Keenan were both called to the stand to describe the assault to the jury.
She said events still trigger memories of Aryan Nations security chief Jesse Warfield, who she said pulled her by her hair and bruised her arm with the butt of a gun.
“He looked like the devil and he was right there in my face,” she said.
When one of the assailants asked her if she was Indian, she pleaded for her life.
“I’m just a poor white farm girl,” she said, denying her Choctaw/Cherokee heritage.
Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler is too nonviolent, said his right-hand man.
“Pastor Butler is a nonviolent person,” said Ray Redfeairn, former head of the Ohio chapter of the Aryan Nations. “He advocates nonviolence.”
Redfeairn was the first witness called by Sandpoint lawyer Edgar Steele in Butler’s defense.
“When people say (Butler) is advocating violence, he’s talking about the very end of time,” Redfeairn said in reference to biblical prophesies. “There will be a time of great upheaval and that will be a time of violence.”
The jury resumed deliberations.
Attorney Ken Howard, representing the Keenans, said the trial is not about Butler’s rights, but the rights of the community to be free of fear.
“The Keenans came this close to not being with us today,” Howard said, holding up his right hand with an inch of space between his thumb and forefinger. “One bullet came this close to their gas tank.”
Howard said Butler has abused the tolerance of the community.
“He has abused our trust,” he said. “We allowed him to be there without being disturbed.”
Defense attorney Edgar Steele said the plaintiffs didn’t prove that Butler is responsible for the actions of the assailants.
Steele said Butler has a right to what he thinks.
“He says bad things, but he doesn’t hurt good people like the Keenans.”
A jury levied the largest award in Idaho history against white supremacist Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations organization.
“This judgment bankrupts Butler, but he was bankrupt from the start because his ideas are corrupt and evil,” said Morris Dees, lead plaintiff attorney. “This group is nothing but a cult. It has nothing whatsoever to do with God or religion. The jury made that clear — that they saw him as the cult leader.”
“Justice has prevailed,” said Jason Keenan in his first public statement since the personal injury lawsuit was filed in January 1999.
“These people are my heroes,“ he said, pointing to his legal team.
"Today I'm proud to be a North Idahoan," Howard said.
A judge upheld the landmark $6.3 million verdict against Richard Butler and three of his Aryan Nations followers.
District Judge Charles Hosack determined that he had no reason to change the verdict or grant a new trial as requested by Butler’s attorney Edgar Steele.
Hosack noted the jury award for compensatory damages was two to five times the amount he would have awarded himself. But he said extent of the injuries was subjective and he was not “shocked” by the award to the degree that would require a reduction.