The U.S. Department of Justice this week announced that Steven Dinkle has pleaded guilty to charges related to a 2009 cross burning in Ozark, Alabama. According to the DOJ, the 28-year-old Dinkle is the former Exalted Cyclops of the Ozark chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
Dinkle and a fellow KKK member, Thomas Windell, participated in the cross burning on May 8, 2009. The two men created a six-foot-tall cross, wrapped it with jeans and a towel, and drove it to the entrance of a black neighborhood in Ozark. There they dug a hole for the cross, poured fuel on it, and set fire to it.
“By targeting the victims with a blazing cross in the night, one of the most threatening racial symbols in our nation’s history, the defendant attempted to terrorize a neighborhood because of the color of the residents’ skin,” said Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division. “Prosecuting these racially motivated crimes will continue to be a priority for the Department of Justice.”
When questioned about his involvement in the cross burning Dinkle lied to both local police and the FBI. He later admitted to the cross burning, saying that he intended the spectacle to be a threat against the residents of the neighborhood.
Dinkle has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate housing rights, criminal interference with the right to fair housing, and obstruction of justice. The man faces up to 10 years in prison for the first two charges, and up to 25 years in prison for obstruction of justice.
“As a society we hope to never see this type of hate,” said George Beck, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. “We will continue to prosecute those that commit these horrible acts of hate to the fullest extent of the law.”
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