A 28-year-old former leader of an Alabama chapter of the Ku Klux Klan is being sentenced to prison for his participation in a 2009 cross burning incident, and subsequent obstruction of justice, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Steven Joshua Dinkle was ordered to serve two years in prison for his role in the May 8, 2009 cross burning in a African-American neighborhood in Ozark.
Dinkle, who used to serve at the Exalted Cyclops of the Ozark, Alabama chapter of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy to violate housing rights, one count of criminal interference with the right to fair housing and two counts of obstruction of justice.
Court documents showed that Dinkle and one of his recruits, identified as Thomas Windell Smith, meet that night and made the decision to burn the cross. Dinkle then built the 6 foot tall cross, wrapped it in jeans and a towel, loaded it into a truck and drove it to the spot at the entrance of the community where they set it ablaze.
THe later lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, telling the special agent who was investigating the incident that he had resigned and withdrawn from his involvement with the KKK months before the incident.
"Defendant Dinkle chose to burn the cross at the very entrance to an African-American neighborhood so that anyone coming or going would see the fiery cross," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. "He intended to intimidate the community's residents in their own homes and neighborhood. There is no place for such conduct in our society and the department will continue to prosecute these violent acts of hate."
"It is sad that, in this day and age, people are still filled with such hate," stated U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr.. "To act on such hate and burn a cross turns that hate into a crime which should not, and will not, be tolerated. Prosecuting these type crimes will continue to be a priority of my office."
The DOJ says Dinkle's co-conspirator, Smith, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate housing rights in December 2013, and he is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 19, 2014.
Dinkle's mother, Pamela Morris, is charged with two counts of perjury arising out of the investigation into the cross burning. Her trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 4, 2014.
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