AUBURN - A white supremacist pleaded guilty to one count of malicious mischief yesterday for breaking a photographer's camera during a scuffle with protesters at a Ku Klux Klan meeting here.
George Kelley Jr., 29, of Federal Way admitted in Auburn Municipal Court that he broke free-lancer Mary Ann Curtis' camera during a June 15 Klan induction ceremony.
About 30 demonstrators organized by the United Front Against Fascism staged a counterprotest at the city's American Legion hall, where about 15 people had convened for what they had planned as a secret Klan gathering.
Curtis told Judge Darrell Phillipson that Kelley ripped the camera out of her hands and threw it against a wall during the fray. But Kelley and his attorney argued Kelley acted out of self-defense.
"It got kinda nasty out there," Kelley said. "I didn't feel safe with them taking my picture."
The case got more attention when Kelley was matched with African-American public defender Patrick Hardy. Yesterday's pretrial hearing, originally scheduled early last month, was postponed until yesterday because Kelley initially was reluctant to work with Hardy.
Kelley said he felt more comfortable with Hardy after the pair talked politics for a half-hour.
"He's a nice guy," Kelley said. "I don't consider my attorney to be my enemy. I don't consider most blacks to be my enemy."
Hardy was willing to represent Kelley despite his personal beliefs and said he thought his client got a fair sentence.
The judge ordered Kelley to pay $317 in restitution and a $200 fine.
Curtis, of Seattle, also wanted Kelley to take classes on race relations. Instead, Phillipson told Kelley he would learn more by getting to know his attorney.
Kelley's plea was a victory not only for Curtis but also for other civil-rights activists, she said.
"I think it sends a message that civil-rights efforts are alive and well," she said.
Curtis also is glad the case got public attention. When people see Kelley, they'll recognize him and know what he stands for, she said.
After leaving court, a shouting match erupted in a parking lot between Kelley and Guerry Hoddersen, an organizer for the United Front Against Fascism. Hoddersen followed Kelley out to his truck, shouting, "You guys need to learn some lessons in this!"
An angry Kelley fired back: "Hell, I'd do it again, man."
Kelley, who distinguished himself from the Klan by calling himself a white nationalist, said he just wants a homeland for white people.
Although he said he was not a Klansman, Kelley was angry that no Klan members showed up to support him.