The Vermont Supreme Court heard the appeal of William Schenk Wednesday to determine whether the distribution of Ku Klux Klan fliers is protected speech under the First Amendment or a hate crime. Schenk was convicted in April for leaving KKK recruitment fliers at the homes of two minority women in Burlington, Vermont.

The state's top court was primarily looking to clarify whether Schenk intended to physically harm the women to whom he gave the fliers, which was an essential component of the Burlington trial court case. Schenk was sentenced to 120 days in jail for disorderly conduct. The sentence was enhanced by a hate crime penalty, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

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The flier depicted a horseman dressed in KKK robes and holding a cross. It additionally had the Klan’s slogan at the top: “Join The Klan And Save Our Land!”

A lower court ruled by putting fliers inside the women’s doors and mailboxes in 2015, Schenk invaded their privacy.

Schenk didn't violate the state's disorderly conduct law because his actions didn't involve any physical contact between him and the two women, Schenk attorney Rebecca Turner of the state Defender General’s office told the court Wednesday. 

Schenk's distribution of the KKK fliers, regardless of their content, was protected speech under the First Amendment, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a letter to the Burlington trial court after Schenk's initial conviction. 

The number of hate groups in the U.S. grew for the second consecutive year in 2016, rising from 892 in 2015 to 917 last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported Feb. 15.

The KKK describes itself on its website as being neither an evil nor a hateful group. Rather, its members simply wish to live apart from the “darker races” in the U.S. "It is the duty of all white Christian men and women to fight against the communists who have stolen our nation," the group's website reads in part.

The Vermont Supreme Court's decisions regarding the KKK fliers is expected to come next month. If the decision is appealed, the case will head to the U.S. Supreme Court.