WASHINGTON – A federal jury in Detroit today convicted Wayland Mullins, of Taylor, Mich., of violating the civil rights of an African-American family by attempting to burn down the family’s house. Mullins was also found guilty of conspiring to violate the family’s housing rights, conspiring to obstruct a federal investigation, and using fire in the commission of a felony. Mullins faces a maximum of 25 years in prison on the civil rights violations and obstruction charges, and an additional mandatory 10 years in prison on the use-of-fire count. Mullins is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 23, 2007.
The evidence at trial established that on July 28, 2002, Mullins and several of his neighbors gathered together and discussed burning down the home of an African-American family that had recently moved into the neighborhood. Following this conversation, Mullins broke a window in the family’s home, poured in a flammable substance, and lit the substance on fire while a co-conspirator, Michael Richardson, acted as a lookout. After the fire, Mullins and Richardson attempted to obstruct a federal investigation into the arson by lying to federal investigators about their knowledge of the crime. The jury found that Mullins’ actions were racially-motivated.
Richardson, who pleaded guilty in federal court to civil rights and obstruction of justice violations in connection with this incident, testified against defendant Mullins at trial. A third defendant, Rick Cotton, also participated in the discussion before the fire and in the cover-up afterward, and was convicted by a jury for lying to federal investigators and a federal grand jury and for obstructing justice. Cotton also pleaded guilty to conspiring with Mullins, Richardson and others to violate the family’s housing rights. Cotton and Richardson face a maximum of up to 10 years and 35 years in prison, respectively, and both will be sentenced on April 25, 2007.
“These despicable acts were bred of ignorance and hate,” said Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim for the Civil Rights Division. “The federal government will continue vigorously to prosecute individuals who engaged in such bias-motivated violence.”
“Every American should be able to live in any community in our land without fear of racial intimidation or reprisal,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy. “Such hatred has no place in our society, as today’s jury verdict shows. But if it does arise, it will be met with the full force of the federal law enforcement power to stamp it out.”
Prosecuting the perpetrators of bias-motivated crimes is a top priority of the Justice Department. Since 2001, the Civil Rights Division has charged 165 defendants in 105 cases of bias-motivated crimes.
This case was investigated by the Taylor Police Department and the Detroit Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Hurley from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Trial Attorney Michael Khoury from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.