Informant recalls fear of spying on Klan
Klan mole provided information to FBI
By Chris Kenning
Dave Hall recalls the spring night in 1999 when he was jolted from bed at the Kentucky headquarters of the Imperial Klans of America and found Imperial Wizard Ron Edwards looming over him -- a shotgun in one hand and a Bible in the other.
Hall said Edwards, flanked by fellow white supremacist Kale Kelly, began quizzing him about Judas' betrayal of Jesus, asking, "So what do you think about Judas?"
Though he was wearing an FBI wire at the time -- and would go on later to provide information that foiled an alleged assassination plot and result in Kelly's arrest -- Hall said he managed to defuse the situation.
But he still recalls the terror of that moment, and he said he was shocked recently to see Kelly testify as a prosecution witness in a recent case against Edwards that played out in a Meade County, Ky., courtroom.
In that case, Edwards' Dawson Springs-based Klan group lost a $2.5 million civil suit to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., for the beating of a minority teenager at a county fair in 2006.
Kelly, who served four years in prison on weapons charges related to the alleged 1999 plot to kill the law center's attorney, Morris Dees -- a plot Hall helped foil -- testified during the trial that Edwards had ordered him to kill Dees.
Edwards denied involvement, calling Kelly's story "bull." He was never charged, and FBI officials in Washington, D.C., declined to comment.
"If a plane fell on (Dees), I'd probably be happy," Edwards said. "But would I do it? No."
Hall, a southeastern Kentucky native who recently released the book, "Into the Devil's Den," which he co-wrote with FBI agent Tym Burkey, his FBI handler, spoke to The Courier-Journal about his time as an informant in the Aryan Nations and his brushes with the IKA, the nation's second-largest Klan group.
Today, Hall said he lives in isolation "somewhere in the Rocky Mountains," in part because he fears being targeted. He said he's still troubled by his time among white supremacists.
"I'm pretty much a hermit. I've got one friend that comes by every now and then, and a vicious guard dog," he said. "I don't know if I could go back to normal life."
Connection to motorcycle gang
In 1996, Hall, a 350-pound tattooed biker, was arrested near Dayton, Ohio, on a marijuana charge, he said.
Burkey, who was an FBI special agent, began using Hall as a criminal informant.
But when Burkey was assigned in early 1997 to a domestic-terrorism unit tracking the Aryan Nations, it turned out that Hall had a connection to members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang who they associated with, Burkey wrote in his book.
"I didn't even know the Aryan Nations existed," Hall said.
To avoid prison, Hall agreed to work his way into the group, eventually becoming a trusted associate of leaders of the Ohio Aryan Nations.
"I was asked to become a member by Ray Redfeairn himself," he said, referring to the man who took over the Aryan Nations in 2001, before dying in 2003. Photos in his book show Hall giving Nazi salutes and standing in white supremacist churches.
All the while, Hall was passing information to Burkey at the FBI. Hall said he suffered from insomnia and drank heavily to cope with the stress.
In 1999, Dees was preparing take the Aryan Nations to court. He was suing them on behalf of an attack victim from Idaho.
Around this time, Hall said he overheard talk that made him think a plot might be afoot to either kill Dees or bomb the law center.
"White supremacist groups throughout the country hated Dees, and, privately, many expressed the view that the assassination of Dees would be the greatest achievement any white supremacist could accomplish," Hall wrote in his book.
Hall said he and Kelly twice traveled together to Edwards' Klan compound -- then located in Powderly, Ky.
On one visit, Hall said, he drove Kelly to a farmhouse to get PVC pipes that he feared could be used as bombs; on a second trip, Hall said he wore an FBI wire.
"They engineered a leather vest, it was like James Bond," Hall said. "It had a wire, but you couldn't find it … it was terrifying."
In an interview, Edwards said he remembered Hall, and suspected he was an informant.
"I didn't like him. I didn't trust him. He asked too many questions," he said.
During that visit, he said, Hall overheard Edwards tell Kelly said he was looking forward to Dees' death, although he never directly implicated himself.
"Edwards said, 'I'll be glad when that son of a bitch Dees is dead,' " Hall recalled in an interview. "Not if, but when."
Testifying in the recent Kentucky case, Kelly said Edwards took him aside and told him to gun down Dees.
Eventually, Hall produced enough information for authorities to arrest Kelly on April 14, 1999, in Ohio. Although he later admitted he'd planned to kill Dees, the FBI could only get Kelly on weapons charges, Burkey wrote in the book.
"Snagging Kale Kelly before he could pull off a hit or worse was worth the loss" of Hall as an informant, Burkey wrote.
Edwards was never charged, nor was anyone else in the Aryan Nations.
"I believe they just didn't have enough to charge him," Hall said. "In Kelly's mindset, it was better for him not to implicate Edwards. If he would've ratted out Edwards, in jail, he would've had the Aryan Brotherhood (prison gang) to worry about."
Although the FBI wouldn't comment, Dees -- who won a $6.3 million verdict in 2000 that forced Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler to give up his organization's 20-acre compound in Idaho -- said he thinks it is probably too late to charge Edwards.
Followed Klan trial online
Hall said he followed the recent Klan trial by reading newspaper and television accounts online.
"It was amazing to me that he got Kale Kelly to testify," Hall said. "The Kale Kelly I knew was a pretty dedicated white supremacist and a close friend of Ron Edwards."
At trial, Edwards denied Kelly's testimony, calling it "a new one on me."
Meanwhile, Edwards recently announced that he is stepping down from his post as Imperial Wizard in the wake of the trial.
"I have an appeal to work on, children to take care of and have not had any time for my family and myself. I will still always be here when needed," he said in an e-mail to The Courier-Journal.
But he vowed to keep the law center from taking the Klan's 15-acre compound outside Dawson Springs, despite Dees' promise to seize the land next year.
Experts estimate that Klan membership nationally is about 6,000 to 8,000, just a fraction of the 5 million in its 1920s heyday.
Today's membership has remained steady, researchers estimate, even as Klan chapters have risen from 110 in 2000 to 164 in 2006 within 34 splintered, named groups.
The IKA was the second-largest Klan group last year, behind the Illinois-based Brotherhood of Klans, according to the law center.Editor's comment
"Dave Hall recalls the spring night in 1999 when he was jolted from bed at the Kentucky headquarters of the Imperial Klans of America and found Imperial Wizard Ron Edwards looming over him -- a shotgun in one hand and a Bible in the other."
Those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword, the Bible tells us. So the shotgun and Bible imagery rings home for this EVIL group!
Labels: Crime, Punishment, Race, Racism