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Former Black-Metal Marketer Seeks Admission to South Dakota Bar

Behold Barbarity
Logo of the now-defunct Behold Barbarity

A lawyer who previously ran a black-metal label that included anti-Semitic and white supremacist music is trying again to be admitted to the South Dakota bar. Aaron Wayne Davis made his pitch to the South Dakota Supreme Court Monday. Davis tried for admission in 2019, but the Supreme Court rejected that application.

In August 2017, City Pages published an article featuring Aaron Wayne Davis, an intellectual property lawyer in Minneapolis who also ran Behold Barbarity records. The label offered music with violently anti-Semitic and racist lyrics and merchandise with neo-Nazi symbolism. The article noted Davis also organized an annual Satanic music festival in Chicago, and that the Southern Poverty Law Center listed Behold Barbarity as an active hate group.

After the article came out, Davis was dropped by the law firm where he worked. Other publications took up the story, including the ABA Law Journal and Billboard Magazine. 

Now Davis is 47 years old and says he lives in Custer with his wife and two toddlers. He tells the state Supreme Court that he has practiced law for 18 years with a spotless disciplinary record.

“The only complaint I’ve had was generally related to the subject of a City Pages article, that was published in August of 2017.”

“That complaint was promptly dismissed by the Minnesota Board of Law Examiners shortly after it was made, stating… the board stating that no laws or any ethical rules had been broken.”

Davis says he represents clients without applying any personal biases. He says he has Jewish clients who stayed with him even after he told them about the City Pages article and will soon represent them before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

He says he regrets that his past music sales have undercut his life’s mission to help all people in need.

“And I’ve shown that over the course of decades by helping people in sobriety, helping people on a pro bono basis in my work, and I’ve represented on a paying basis every conceivable color, creed, religion of every person that’s out there.”

Davis says just a small percentage of the music he sold was offensive.

“I greatly regret the fact that I put myself into this position by selling merchandise however small of an amount that it was and not taking a closer look at that before it was sold.”

Davis says he has never personally attacked anyone for racial or religious reasons. He says he has maintained sobriety for years and sponsors others; he had a kidney transplant last fall; and he assists his family, which he says is racially mixed.

“You know, I’m not burning crosses and going to rallies and things like that. I’m living a very… and I never have done anything like that. I live a very family-oriented life, and that’s the way I’d like to keep it.”

Davis says these factors prove he is of good character to practice law in South Dakota.

Justices will deliberate and release their decision at a later date.