CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – James Smiley, 27, Colton Partin, 21, and Kyle Montgomery, 21, all of Chattanooga, Tenn., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga for launching fireworks at African-Americans who were congregated outside their apartment building.
In the early morning hours of July 9, 2011, at least four African-American residents of East Lake Courts Public Housing Authority in Chattanooga were on the porch of one of the units. As they conversed, Smiley, Partin and Montgomery drove by several times yelling racial slurs and launched mortar-type fireworks, from a cylinder, directly toward these individuals. The individuals on the porch dove and scattered to avoid the explosions, one of which was captured on video by the Chattanooga Housing Authority. Another explosion shattered a window pane in an apartment of an African-American resident of the East Lake Courts. This individual was asleep inside with her infant child and her boyfriend's adolescent siblings.
Based on a 911 call, the Chattanooga Police Department swiftly apprehended and arrested Smiley, Partin and Montgomery. Fireworks, like the ones fired at the individuals on the porch, were photographed and observed in the bed of the truck. Smiley, Partin and Montgomery admitted their involvement to the officers. They have further admitted that the explosives were fired toward the individuals in order to intimidate them because they were African-American.
"Hate crimes victimize not only individuals but entire communities," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department of Justice is committed to protecting our communities from attempted violence and intimidation motivated by bigotry and prejudice, and ensuring that justice is served."
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian stated, "On behalf of the federal law enforcement community, and in conjunction with state and local law enforcement agencies and the district attorney general, we want the public to know that violations of the civil rights of all persons will not be tolerated. We will aggressively address and prosecute civil rights matters, regardless of the source or nature of the circumstances, or the race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other classification of the victims."
Each faces 10 years in federal prison as well as a $250,000 fine, three years supervised release and a $100 special assessment. Sentencing hearings were set for April 12, 2012, in U.S. District Court, Chattanooga, before the Honorable Curtis L. Collier, Chief U.S. District Court Judge.
Investigative agencies involved in the investigation of this case included the Chattanooga Police Department, Chattanooga Housing Authority Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Poole and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Myesha Braden represented the United States.