WASHINGTON – Brandon Rhodes, 20, of Marengo, Ohio, pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge related to the burning of a cross in the yard of an African-American juvenile in March 2011, the Justice Department announced today.
Rhodes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to interfere with the housing rights of another in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, before U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost. Information presented during the plea hearing established that a cross burning occurred on March 2, 2011, at a residence in Bennington Township, Ohio, that was home to an African-American family with three high school children. The investigation revealed that Rhodes and his co-conspirator agreed to burn a cross in the backyard of the home of one of the children who resided there. After the six-foot wooden cross was constructed, Rhodes and his co-conspirator transported the cross to the back yard of the African-American family. Rhodes and his co-conspirator wrote “KKK will make you pay” and another racial derogatory term on the cross. Rhodes and his co-conspirator poured gasoline on the cross and, using a cigarette lighter, ignited the cross around midnight.
“A burning cross is a symbol of bigotry and hate and, in this case, it was used to threaten a family. These incidents have no place in our country, and they are a reminder of the civil rights challenges we still face today,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We will continue to aggressively prosecute hate crimes of this kind.”
“We are committed to working with federal, state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute those who commit crimes driven by intolerance or hatred,” said Carter Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
Rhodes faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio and Trial Attorney Patricia A. Sumner from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.