WASHINGTON - Jason Walter Barnwell, 37, of Evening Shade, Ark., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, Ark., to charges related to his involvement in the Jan. 14, 2011, racially motivated firebombing of the home of a mixed-race couple in Hardy, Ark. Barnwell pleaded guilty to one count of civil rights conspiracy and one count of use of fire during the commission of a felony in connection with the incident. Barnwell also pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon for illegally possessing a firearm on March 16, 2011, the Department of Justice announced today.
Barnwell, along with Gary Dodson, 32, of Waldron, Ark.; Jake Murphy, 19, also of Waldron; Dustin Hammond, 20, of Hardy; and Wendy Treybig, 31, of Evening Shade, were indicted in April 2011 by a federal grand jury on civil rights charges and other federal charges stemming from their participation in the racially motivated firebombing and subsequent attempt to obstruct a federal investigation.
During the plea proceedings, Barnwell admitted that on the night of Jan. 14, 2011, while at a party at his house, he, Murphy, Hammond and Dodson devised a plan to firebomb the victims’ house. Thereafter, all four men drove from Barnwell’s residence to the victims’ house in Hardy. When they arrived, Barnwell, Murphy and Hammond constructed three Molotov cocktails and threw them at the house. The victims’ house sustained some damage; however, the victims were not injured. Barnwell also admitted to illegally possessing a firearm after he had been convicted of a felony.
“We simply will not tolerate racially-motivated violence in this country,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute individuals who commit such heinous acts.”
“This joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; along with the Arkansas State Police; the Hardy and Waldron Police Departments; and the Scott and Sharp County Sheriff’s Offices demonstrates how seriously all levels and branches of law enforcement consider these acts of prejudice, intolerance, and intimidation,” said Christopher R. Thyer, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. “ We are committed to protect the civil rights of all citizens of the Eastern District of Arkansas.”
Barnwell faces a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison. Sentencing has been set for Dec. 20, 2011. Murphy, Hammond and Treybig previously pleaded guilty for their involvement in this matter. Gary Dodson is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 25, 2011.
This case was investigated by the Little Rock Division of the Federal FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ray White of the Eastern District of Arkansas and Trial Attorney Henry Leventis of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.