Aryan Nations

I was the courtroom sketch artist for this exciting trial which took place at the
Superior Courthouse in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The trial garnered international
media attention and an unprecedented show of scores of law enforcement
officers in and around the courthouse complex. This is a series of sketches from
that trial.

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In September 2000, the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million
judgment against Aryan Nations from an Idaho jury who awarded punitive and
compensatory damages to plaintiffs Victoria Keenan and her son Jason. The two
had been beaten with rifles by Aryan Nations security guards in Coeur d’Alene,
Idaho in July, 1998. The woman and her son were driving near the Aryan Nations
compound when their car backfired, which the guards claimed to misinterpret
as gunfire. The guards fired at the car, striking it several times, leading the car
to crash, after which one of the Aryan Nations guards held the Keenans at
gunpoint.

Representing the Keenans was Morris Dees and Norm Gissel. The lawyer for
Richard Butler was Edgar Steele. The judge was Charles Hosack.

The origin of Aryan Nations is in the teachings of Wesley Swift, a significant
figure in the early Christian Identity movement. Swift combined British Israelism,
extreme antisemitism and political militancy. He founded his own church in
California in the mid-1940s, and he had a daily radio broadcast in California
during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1957, the name of his church was changed to
the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, which is used today by Aryan Nations
churches.

From the 1970s until 2001, the Aryan Nations headquarters was in a 20-acre
compound 1.8 miles north of Hayden Lake, Idaho. There were a number of state
chapters, only loosely tied to the main organization. The group ran an annual
World Congress of Aryan Nations at Hayden Lake for Aryan Nations members
and members of similar groups. Until 1998, the leadership of Aryan Nations
remained firmly in the hands of Richard Girnt Butler.

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