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Lawyers Hope To Seize Klan Property

November 10, 1998

SUMTER, S.C. (AP) _ A predominantly black congregation and the Southern Poverty Law Center will try to seize the assets of a Ku Klux Klan faction, even though they have no hope of raising the $21.5 million they won for a church fire.

A judge set the amount after ruling that the original judgment of $37.8 million amount awarded by a jury to the Macedonia Baptist Church was excessive.

The church will accept the new ruling against the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said Richard Cohen, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

``The fact that these defendants don’t have the means to pay the fines imposed doesn’t mean no fine should be imposed,″ Cohen said Monday. ``Both the judge and the jury said we need to put a high penalty on this kind of behavior.″

The center also has won other settlements that stripped white supremacist groups of their assets, including a a 1987 judgment that bankrupted the United Klans of America in Mobile, Ala..

A jury awarded Macedonia Baptist Church the money in July because Klan members burned the church in June 1995. The Klan appealed the ruling in September and asked for a new trial. The trial judge denied the request but reduced the size of the judgment.

The judgment also names the Klan group’s state leader, Horace King, and four other members.

King said he had never had a fair chance in court.

``I’m a poor man, I couldn’t pay it if it was only one million dollars,″ he said Monday.

King was never charged, but witnesses testified he said a church should be burned. Four former Klansmen are serving federal prison sentences for the 1995 arson.

``The judge knows and the jury knew that the Klan didn’t have $37 million,″ Cohen said. ``They know they don’t have $21.5 million. But there was still an important objective to be served and that was to set an example and deter future actions.″

``The defendants were, in starkest terms, trying to foment a race war,″ Cohen said.

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