WASHINGTON – A Missouri man was sentenced today to 42 months in prison for his role in the vandalism and arson of a biracial man’s home in Independence, Mo., the Department of Justice announced.
Charles Wilhelm, 23, of Independence, was sentenced in the Western District of Missouri by U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple.
On March 8, 2012, Wilhelm pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Fair Housing Act. Wilhelm’s co-conspirators, Teresa Witthar and David Martin, pleaded guilty on Feb. 2, 2012, and March 7, 2012, respectively, for their roles in vandalizing and burning down Nathaniel Reed’s home in Independence.
According to the plea agreement filed with the court, Wilhelm, Witthar and Martin conspired to intimidate and scare Reed, a biracial man, into moving out of the Highland Manor Mobile Home Park in Independence, in part because of his race. On or about June 6, 2006, Wilhelm, along with Witthar and Martin, entered Reed’s home, without his permission, and vandalized it by writing at least 15 racially derogatory slurs on the walls of his trailer.
Two days later, on or about June 8, 2006, Witthar drove Wilhelm and Martin to a neighborhood behind Reed’s home so that they could set fire to it without being detected. Witthar waited in her vehicle for Wilhelm and Martin to set the fire and then provided them a ride back to the Highland Manor Mobile Home Park.
“The racially motivated destruction of the victim's home strikes at the heart of the protections afforded by our civil rights laws,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to act aggressively to ensure that all Americans are able to live in their homes without fear of racial violence.”
“This defendant violated another person’s civil rights and endangered the safety of many nearby residents,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri David M. Ketchmark. “Today’s sentence makes an important statement that race-based crime carries serious punishment. Racially-motivated attacks are offensive to our community and will not be tolerated by our justice system. “
Witthar was sentenced to 63 months in prison on June 18, 2012. Sentencing for Martin is scheduled for Aug. 2, 2012.
These guilty pleas were the result of a cooperative effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. This case was investigated by the Kansas City Division of the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Acting U.S. Attorney Ketchmark for the Western District of Missouri and Trial Attorney Sheldon L. Beer of the Civil Rights Division.