Six Ku Klux Klan members and three American Nazi Party members were indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday on charges that they conspired to disrupt a 1979 anti-Klan demonstration in Greensboro, N.C., that resulted in the deaths of five members of the Communist Workers Party.
The indictments stem from a "Death to the Klan" march and rally on Nov. 3, 1979, that was organized by the Communists and disrupted by the arrival of the nine-car caravan of Klansmen and Nazis. Five Communists--four whites and one black--were killed, and seven other individuals were injured.
After conflicting testimony over who started the shootout, the defendants were acquitted by an all-white state jury. The public outcry over the acquittals led the federal government to empanel its own grand jury in Winston-Salem, N.C., which sat for 29 months before returning yesterday's 14-count indictment.
All nine defendants were charged yesterday with conspiring to use force and threat of force to intimidate and interfere with the federally-protected rights of the participants in the anti-Klan parade, resulting in death and bodily injury.
The federal government does not prosecute murders, which are handled at the state level. Instead, in this case, it charged that the Communists' civil rights were violated when they were murdered.
* Virgil L. Griffin, 38, of Mount Holly, N.C., grand dragon of the North Carolina chapter of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the KKK.
* Edward Dawson, 64, of Greensboro, a former member of the United Klans of America and North Carolina Knights of the KKK.
* Jerry P. Smith, of Maiden, N.C., a Klan official.
* David W. Matthews, 27, of Granite Falls, N.C., the Klan's night hawk, the officer in charge of initiation of new recruits.
* Coleman B. Pridmore, 41, of Lincolnton, N.C., exalted cyclops and head of the Lincolnton unit of the Invisible Empire.
* Roy C. Toney, 35, of Gastonia, N.C., a member of the Lincolnton Klavern.
* Roland Wood, 38, of Winston-Salem, leader of the Forsyth County Nazi Party unit.
* Jack W. Fowler, Jr., 31, of Winston-Salem, a member of the Forsyth County Nazi unit.
* Raeford Caudle, 40, of Winston-Salem, a member of the Forsyth County Nazi unit.
The indictment said Smith, Matthews, Wood, and Fowler fired the shots that resulted in the deaths of five demonstrators: James Waller, Cesar Cauce, Michael Nathan, Sandra Smith, and William Sampson.
Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds, who announced the indictments, said that if convicted of the most serious charges, the four men could face life in prison. The others face a maximum of five to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each charge.
The indictment also charged Griffin and Dawson with conspiring during the week after the shootout to obstruct the FBI investigation of the incident by intimidating five people and urging them to lie or give misleading statements to FBI agents.
Two days before the demonstration, the indictment said, Dawson put up Klan posters along the parade route that stated "Notice! to the Traitors, Communists, Race-Mixers and Black Rioters--Traitors Beware--Even now the cross-hairs are on the back of your necks--KKK--It's time for old-fashioned American Justice." The poster showed a silhouette of a man hanging from a tree.
On the day of the march, according to the indictment, the defendants drove to Greensboro with billy clubs, sticks, knives, a five-foot long chain, several rifles, a shotgun, several pistols, tear gas and eggs.
The Justice Department also said that 22-year-old Mark J. Sherer, a former Klansman, now a student at the University of South Carolina, was charged March 24 with participating in the conspiracy. He pleaded guilty that day in U.S. court in Winston-Salem to a charge of firing a .44 pistol and telling other Klansmen and Nazis to shoot the "niggers." He is awaiting sentencing.