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Virginia Man Sentenced After Burning Cross In Black Family's Yard, Then Offering To Help Find Culprit

Marion Police Department

A man from Marion, Virginia was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after burning a cross in front of a home belonging to a Black family last June.

James Brown, 41, pleaded guilty in April to criminal interference with federally protected housing rights based on the victim's race.


Brown's sentencing was shared by the United States Attorney's Office on Friday.

You can watch a news report here:

youtu.be

On the day of the sentencing, Acting U.S. Attorney Bubar said:

"When Brown burned a cross in the victim's front yard, he carried out a despicable act of intimidation, interfered with a federally protected housing right, and broke a serious federal law."

Bubar continued:

"Today's sentence demonstrates that such threatening acts of hatred will be swiftly investigated and prosecuted."
"We thank the FBI and state partners for their hard work on this important case."

People thought Brown's 18-month sentence was insufficient.




According to a court ruling, a neighbor witnessed the cross burning on the morning of June 14, 2020 and saw a "White, skinny man" walking away from the fire.


One of the family members, then-17-year-old Travon Brown—no relation—is a member of a Virginia Black Lives Matter group called the New Panthers. Travon Brown organized a civil rights protest the day before the cross burning incident in the wake of George Floyd's death.


The teen's mother, Briggette Thomas, initially feared the house was on fire.

James Brown ran across the street as the cross burned then offered to help the family to deflect suspicion.

Responding officers extinguished the blaze and found two pieces of wood were tied together to form a cross and propped up against a barrel.


James Brown initially denied being responsible for setting the blaze. He claimed he only heard something "like a shotgun or firework", according to Law & Crime.

Later, he reportedly laughed and used the n-word while admitting to a neighbor he ignited the cross to threaten the Black family and intimidate them.

Brown was arrested 12 days later.

The U.S. Attorney's Office also revealed the suspect was known to have used racial slurs when referring to the family.


Brown was previously indicted by a grand jury for making false statements, interfering with housing rights, using fire in violation of federal law and unlawfully possessing guns.

He faced a maximum of ten years in prison, according to The Atlanta Black Star.

Special Agent in Charge Stanley M. Meador said:

"We have zero tolerance in our communities for those individuals violating anyone's civil rights. Investigating allegations of civil rights violations continue to be a top priority for the FBI."
"And through our community liaison and law enforcement partnerships, we will continue to investigate and mitigate the unwanted and unwarranted behavior of racially motivated individuals."
"FBI Richmond encourages anyone who may have knowledge or is a victim of a hate crime to report it to law enforcement."