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Police Probe of KKK Link Withheld for Fear of Racial Unrest

October 10, 1991 GMT

JACKSON, Ga. (AP) _ Police investigated a possible Ku Klux Klan link in the Atlanta slayings of 29 young blacks a decade ago but withheld the information for fear of racial unrest, a law officer testified.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe was closed because it turned up no evidence to corroborate an informant’s claim he heard a KKK recruiter’s confession, GBI agent Robert Ingram said Wednesday.

The testimony came at an appeals hearing for Wayne Williams, 33. Williams, who is black, was convicted in 1982 of two of the slayings that terrorized Atlanta from 1979 to 1981.

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Defense attorneys William Kunstler and Bobby Lee Cook say details of the Klan investigation were illegally withheld from Williams’ lawyers at the time, depriving him of a fair trial.

Earlier Wednesday, police informant Billy Joe Whitaker testified he heard KKK recruiter Charles Sanders confess to killing one of the children.

Ingram said the GBI investigated the claim but kept the probe secret because then-GBI Director Phil Peters feared ″racial problems″ in Atlanta if word leaked of possible KKK involvement.

Ingram also said tapes of Whitaker’s conversations with members of Sanders’ family were destroyed in 1981 with his approval.

After the hearing, Cook said the defense should have been allowed to see the records.

″In our system of justice, we don’t leave those things to the Ingrams of the world,″ he said.

The Superior Court hearing is scheduled to resume later, possibly in February.