Nine Ku Klux Klan members in North Carolina have been indicted on charges of conspiring to violate the rights of interracial families in a series of cross burnings and shootings, the Justice Department said yesterday.
The defendants, including two local Klan leaders, were also charged with perjury for denying that they knew of the cross burnings, which occurred in 1982 and 1983, or were involved in the incidents.
The 20-count indictment was returned Monday by a federal grand jury in Asheville, N.C., and unsealed yesterday, when arrests were made. William Bradford Reynolds, chief of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said the charges followed a two-year probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of racial violence in two North Carolina counties.
Members of the Klan, a white supremacist group, plotted to intimidate several black and white residents who lived or socialized together in the two counties, according to the indictment. It said this violated the rights of these residents to live where they choose or to associate with people of another race.
Robert Pence, chief FBI agent in Charlotte, said there had been "an inordinate number of shootings and cross burnings" by the Klan in the past three years and that his office was investigating two dozen such incidents.
He said three persons had already been convicted in connection with the incidents cited in the new indictments.
Those indicted were Jerry D. Suits, a titan, or leader, of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Iredell County; his wife, Mary V. Suits, queen kleagle of the women's unit of the Klan; Tony D. Earp, leader of the Klan in Alexander County, and Klan members Jerry A. Henderson, Michael T. Chambers, Rodney E. Pope, Alfred S. Childers, Dan Pritchard and Kenneth R. Blankenship.
The indictment cited the following incidents in 1982:
*On Nov. 12, three Klan members ignited a wooden cross and fired shots into the home of Carmie Waugh, a white woman, and her two mixed-race children.
*On Nov. 21, three Klan members burned a cross and fired shots in front of the home of Elmeda Adams, a black, and her family.
*On Nov. 27, three Klan members placed a cross at the home of John Grimes, a black socializing with a white woman, and later made a threatening phone call to him.
*On Dec. 5, two Klan members burned a cross at the home of William Hill, a black.
The following year, according to the indictment, Childers told Serena Morton, a white, that a cross would be burned at her house if she associated with a black man.
If convicted, the defendants face at least 10 years in prison and $10,000 fines. Reynolds said that countering racial violence is a top Justice Department priority.
He said that more than 150 persons, including at least 84 Klan members, had been prosecuted for racial violence since 1979 when President Jimmy Carter established a special unit to combat such violence.