LOUISVILLE, Ky. - For its annual party of white supremacists, skinheads and Klansmen in western Kentucky, the Imperial Klans of America won't be hosting its traditional Memorial Day weekend Nordic Fest.
Instead, members are opting for what they call a "spring gathering" featuring a "cross lighting" and barbeque.
The change has been prompted by turmoil within the group, caused by the IKA's erstwhile grand wizard, Ron Edwards, being sentenced Thursday to four years in prison on federal drug and gun charges, and an ongoing legal fight over a $2.5 million civil judgment against him.
Those problems have moved other white supremacist groups to disassociate with the Dawson Springs-based Klan, which has publicly banished multiple members, and putting the future of what was once considered one of the largest KKK organizations in the country on uncertain ground.
"There's not much left to them," said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala., group that tracks the Klan and other white supremacists.
The problems for Edwards and IKA started with a punch.
A group of four white supremacists tied to the Imperial Klans of America, which at the time boasted of 16 chapters in eight states and five in foreign countries, beat up Jordan Gruver, the son of a Panamanian father and Kentucky-born mom, at the Meade County Fair in July 2006.
During the attack, the Klansmen called Gruver a "spic" and "border hopper." It led to short prison sentences for some and a civil suit by Gruver and the Southern Poverty Law Center against Edwards and the IKA.
While the group was dropped from the suit, Edwards, heavily tattooed in crosses and Nazi symbols, represented himself at trial in 2008. During the proceedings, witnesses, including two former Klansmen, described Edwards as a greedy coward who used the Klan to intimidate enemies and make money. A jury ruled for Gruver though the decision was overturned during an ongoing appeal of the case.
Earlier this year, Edwards and his long-time girlfriend, Christina Ann Gillette, pleaded guilty to federal drug charges. Gillette received 366 days in prison.
Since the verdict and Edwards' arrest, at least eight people have been banished from the organization for what the Klan describes on the web page as "disloyalty." Included in that group are Joshua Edward Cowles and Matthew Roberts of Ohio, who testified against Edwards at the civil trial, and Truitt Lilly, once the acting imperial wizard of the organization.
Once active with links to related "realms" around the country, IKA's web page has been slow to update and links to the other organizations were listed as "under construction" as recently as mid-May.
Other white supremacist groups, including the Supreme White Alliance, publicly disassociated themselves from IKA after Edwards' arrest. The treasurer of that group, listed as James Reeves of San Angelo, Texas, did not return an e-mail seeking a comment.
A collection of supremacist groups operating under the title Blood and Honour USA also condemned Edwards, noting that drug users and dealers "cannot and will not be tolerated."
"Indeed, it is even worse when someone has held themselves up as a standard of white nationalism becomes caught up in this ... nonsense," an administrator posted on the group's web site.
Administrators of the white supremacist mega-message board Stormfront.org also barred IKA from advertising Nordic Fest. The event is usually a large recruitment tool and celebration of their movement featuring speakers and music, along with the occasional unscheduled brawl. It was held on Edwards' property about 10 minutes north of the Western Kentucky Parkway.
Cohen said the trial and arrest "discredited Edwards in the eyes of his own followers."
"It exposed him for what he was," Cohen said. "Someone for whom the Klan was a money-making operation."
Edwards said his legal problems proved who his real friends and followers were.
"As soon as something happens, they go with the government," Edwards said. "Before, they hated the government. I still have a lot of friends out there."
The current makeup of IKA, the size of which could not be determined, is standing by Edwards. In an e-mail sent to The Associated Press on May 19, the group criticizes "many of our own people" for abandoning Edwards.
"He has done so much for our people in unity, helping them with a place to stay, helping them get jobs and on their feet, etc.," the e-mail states.
Edwards publicly resigned as head of the Klan in 2008 after a dozen years in charge, but remains tight with the organization. Imperial Klans of America responded to an e-mail sent by The Associated Press by referring questions to Edwards, who spoke about the group in a telephone interview.
"They're still holding up," Edwards said. "It's not going anywhere."
Hopkins County Sheriff's Detective Sean Bean, who monitors IKA, hasn't heard much from the group recently.
"The operation doesn't appear to be growing at all," Bean said.