Hate groups property auctioned to pair shot at by its guards
By Nicholas K. Geranios/AP
The Aryan Nations compound in Idaho, that for two decades spawned some of the nations most violent neo-Nazis, was sold on Feb. 13 to a mother and son, whose lawsuit bankrupted the hate group.
Victoria and Jason Keenan were the only bidders in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court sale of the 20-acre property, which had served as a gathering place for people such as Buford Furrow, and members of The Order.
The Keenans paid $250,000 and plan to sell the wooded property, possibly to a human rights group. As the major creditors of the Aryan Nations, the Keenans would be in line to get the money back.
We hope to get the evilness out of there and turn it around to something positive, Jason Keenan, 21, said after the brief court hearing.
The Buford Furrows of this world, of whom there are many, will not have a place to come and learn the craft of hatred, said Norm Gissel, a lawyer for the Keenans.
Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler, 82, witnessed the transfer of the property near Hayden Lake, Idaho, that he had owned since moving from Southern California in the early 1970s. He blamed a Jewish conspiracy for the outcome.
You take from those who work and have and give to those who have never worked and did not have, Butler said. I havent lost my honor.
Butler has vowed to keep preaching his white supremacist, anti-Semitic philosophy from a house in nearby Hayden, purchased for him by a wealthy supporter. He has announced plans for three marches through northern Idaho towns this summer, plus his annual Aryan World Congress at a state park campground.
Butler filed for bankruptcy protection in October, a month after the Keenans were awarded $6.3 million by a civil jury, after being shot at and assaulted by Aryan Nations security guards in 1998.
Potential bidders were required to put down a $15,000 cash deposit and have a credit line of at least $300,000.
The Keenans were the only ones to make a deposit. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala., civil rights group that also represented them in their lawsuit, loaned them the $95,000 cash needed to complete the purchase. The auction proceeds will go to the Bankruptcy Court, to be paid to creditors of Aryan Nations, Butler and the security guards. The Keenans are the biggest creditors. The property and all its contents, including many Nazi artifacts and symbols, were sold in one lot to the Keenans.
Victoria Keenan said they plan to burn many of the artifacts, although attorney Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center has requested some of the swastikas.
The compound contains numerous buildings, including Butlers former home, a bunkhouse, a guard tower, the chapel of Butlers Church of Jesus Christ, Christian, and other facilities.
Over the years, it drew the likes of Furrow, a former Aryan Nations security guard who pleaded guilty last month to killing Filipino American Joseph Ileto and wounding five people at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles.
The Order was a violent offshoot of Aryan Nations involved in numerous robberies, and the murder of Denver talk radio host Alan Berg in the 1980s.
Victoria Keenan, 45, who is part Cherokee-Choctaw Indian, suggested the grounds of the compound needed to be cleansed because of that history.
We need an Indian to go up there and bless the land, Keenan said.
Jason Keenan said the land should be returned to farming or ranching.
The Keenans also received intellectual property, including the names Aryan Nations and Church of Jesus Christ Christian.
The Keenans were driving past the compound the night of July 1, 1998, when their car apparently backfired. Three Aryan Nations security guards, thinking someone had fired a shot, jumped into a pickup and chased them. They shot out a tire, forcing the Keenans car into a ditch. The guards held the terrified people at gunpoint and threatened to kill them before backing off. The Keenans lawsuit contended Butler and his group were negligent in hiring and training the guards.
Victoria Keenan said the experience left her with a nagging rib injury, and lingering fear for her safety. But she also has a feeling of satisfaction.
I feel very, very good, she said. We did the Christian thing.