Three Arkansas men were indicted on federal civil rights charges Nov. 2 in connection with a cross burning in the yard of an African-American resident in Salado, Ark. Aug. 28.
James Bradley Branscum, 22, Tony Branscum, 24, and Curtis Coffee, 18, were all charged with conspiring to interfere with the housing rights of another individual and one count of using fire in the commission of a felony.
“As a civilized society, we simply cannot tolerate such blatant acts of hatred and intimidation,” Jane W. Duke, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas told the Arkansas Times. “Burning a cross in the yard of an African-American is one of the most offensive and threatening gestures imaginable. The history of violence associated with such an image loudly screams at the victim, without the offender having to say a word. This joint investigation demonstrates how seriously all levels and branches of law enforcement consider these acts of prejudice, intolerance, and intimidation.”
According to the Department of Justice, the case was investigated by the FBI with cooperation from the Independence County, Ark. Sheriff Department’s Criminal Investigation Division led by Sheriff Alan Cockrill.
“I would also like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance,” Cockrill told the Times. “Without our two agencies working together on this case, it would have been much more difficult and time-consuming to have solved.”
Justice Department civil rights attorney Cindy Chung and U.S. Attorney John Ray White will try the case.
The three men face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. It is still unclear whether any of the suspects have a connection with any hate groups.