Virginia Man Gets 18 Months For Burning Cross on Black Family's Lawn

A Virginia man has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after burning a cross in the front lawn of an African American family in June of 2020.

On Friday, James Brown, 41, of Marion, Virginia was sentenced in federal court for his crimes. Acting U.S. Attorney Bubar thanked the FBI for all of their hard work in prosecuting Brown.

"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 stated in court. "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."

Special Agent in Charge Stanley M. Meador said that the ultimate goal in this case was to set a precedent for anyone else who may want to commit racially charged crimes.

"We have zero tolerance in our communities for those individuals violating anyone's civil rights," said Meador. "Investigating allegations of civil rights violations continues 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."

Meador ended his statements by encouraging anyone who has been a victim of a hate crime to report it to law enforcement.

Stock photo of a gavel and handcuffs
Stock photo of a gavel and handcuffs. On Friday, James Brown, 41, of Marion, Virginia was sentenced in federal court for his crimes. Getty Images

On June 12, 2020, the victim called Marion Police to report that a man burned a cross in her front yard. Once the officers arrived, they found a cross-shaped piece of wood up against a burn barrel in her yard with red hot coals.

"When interviewed by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Victim #1 broke into tears while describing the incident," FBI Special Agent Chad Potter said in a court affidavit. "I know from my training and experience that cross burnings have historically been used to specifically target and intimidate African Americans."

"Agents observed that the wood was connected by a screw to make a cross shape," Potter continued. "Attached to the wood was a woven cloth attached by staples. The wood and cloth had a sweet smell, which is indicative of a propellant being used."

Brown was arrested shortly after the crimes took place and charged with lying to federal agents and criminal interference with fair housing based upon the victim's race, in accordance with the U.S Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia.

During Brown's guilty plea hearing, he admitted that he burned the cross in order to threaten and intimidate the African American family.