An Independence, Mo., woman was indicted by a federal grand jury today for violating the civil rights of an African-American family by setting fire to their residence, announced Roy L. Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Victoria A. Cheek-Herrera, 33, of Independence, was charged in a three-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo.
Today’s indictment charges Cheek-Herrera with participating in a conspiracy to threaten and intimidate an Independence family from exercising their constitutional right to reside in their home because of their race or color. It also charges Cheek-Herrera with committing a racially-motivated arson and with using fire during the commission of a felony.
According to the indictment, Cheek-Herrera conspired with others on June 26, 2008, to injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate Larry Davis, Stacey Little and the couple’s minor children in the free exercise of their constitutional right to occupy and rent their home in Independence, because of their race and color. Davis, Little and their children are all African American.
The indictment alleges that Cheek-Herrera discussed with others her desire to set fire to the home of Davis and Little, and that Cheek-Herrera and a co-conspirator drew a swastika and wrote the words “White Power” on the driveway to Davis and Little’s residence. Cheek-Herrera allegedly asked a juvenile acquaintance for gasoline then helped create a Molotov cocktail by filling a glass bottle with gasoline and inserting a rag into the bottle to serve as a wick. Cheek-Herrera and a co-conspirator then allegedly lit the wick and threw the gasoline-filled bottle into the side of the house that Davis and Little were renting, which set the residence on fire.
If convicted, Cheek-Herrera faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for one charged count of conspiracy against rights, a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for one charged count of interference with housing rights, and a penalty of 10 years imprisonment consecutive to any other sentence and a fine of $250,000 for one charged count of using fire during the commission of a felony.
The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark and Trial Attorney Shan Patel of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. It was investigated by the FBI.