Southern Poverty Law Center | KCET
Southern Poverty Law Center
After the Murder: The Rest of the Story
As you saw in our segment, a young black man from Ethiopia was beaten to death in Portland in 1988 by white supremacists. The killing was inspired by the White Aryan Resistance, founded by neo-Nazi Tom Metzger who lived north San Diego County.You also saw how the Southern Poverty Law Center, led by co-founder and chief legal counsel Morris Dees, used brilliant legal strategy to bankrupt the White Aryan Resistance.
The jury found Metzger and his group responsible for the murder even though they did not have their hands on the baseball bat that killed Mulugeta Seraw. The penalty? A whopping $12.5 million dollars. It put the organization out of business.
The victim's name was Mulugeta Seraw. I wondered whatever happened to his family? What happened to the three men found guilty of killing him? What happened to neo-Nazi Tom Metzger?
The most remarkable story belongs to Mulugeta's son, Henock. The boy was 13 years old and attended parts of the trial.
The boy's mother was living in Ethiopian eking out a living on $1 a day. And today? Amazingly Henock is a pilot for a major international airline.It would not have been possible if his mother had not allowed Henock to stay in the U.S. He was cared for by one of the attorney's on the SPLC team. Some of the money from the $12.5 settlement paid for Henock's flying lessons when he was teenager, paving the way for his successful career. The money also went to support Henock's mother in Ethiopia.
As for the killers, they pleaded guilty. Kenneth Mieske, the one who actually swung the bat that killed Seraw, was given life in prison. Mieske died in prison of hepatitis in 2011 at age 45.
His accomplice, Kyle Brewster, served twelve years in prison. The third accomplice, Steven Strasser, served six years. According to an Oregon State researcher Brewster is still involved with racist skinheads. Strasser is not.
How about white supremacist Tom Metzger? The $12.5 million fine forced Metzger to surrender WAR's assets to the victim's family. He also lost his house in Fallbrook, California worth $121,000. Today Metzger lives in Indiana and is still required to make payments to the Seraw family.
Today the tragic 1988 murder of Mulugeta Seraw is part of legal and civil rights history. If something good came out of Mulugeta's murder, it is that his son, Henock had educational opportunities he never would have had in Ethiopia. The Southern Poverty Law Center went on to use the legal strategy of holding hate groups financially responsible for the violence of their followers to put the Ku Klux Klan and the United Klans of America out of business.