WASHINGTON – Four individuals have been arrested and charged with carrying out a racially-motivated beating and conspiring to interfere with the civil rights of an African-American man in Nampa, Idaho.
The indictment, returned on Feb. 11, 2009, by a federal grand jury in the District of Idaho, was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Division; U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Moss for the District of Idaho; Timothy J. Fuhrman, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office; and Chief Bill Augsburger of the Nampa Police Department.
The indictment alleges that on July 4, 2008, Michael J. Bullard, Jennifer J. Hartpence, a/k/a Jennifer J. Erickson, Richard C. Armstrong and James D. Whitewater, encountered an African-American man inside a Wal-Mart Supercenter store. As the defendants left the store, they discussed beating this African-American man and made preparations for the attack. When the African-American man left the store, the defendants allegedly threatened him, called him racial slurs and Bullard asked him what country he thought he was in. The African-American man tried to run away, but Bullard, Armstrong and Whitewater allegedly chased him across the store’s parking lot, where they tackled him and repeatedly hit and kicked him.
"Hate crimes tear at the very fabric of our great nation and we must remain vigilant in our efforts to combat them," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King.
"We are well past the time in Idaho when a person’s race, color, religion or ethnicity can be the basis for an assault," said U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Moss. "Everyone has a legal right to frequent a business that serves as a public accommodation without being injured or intimidated based on race. This office will vigorously pursue prosecution of individuals who perpetrate hate crimes."
"One cannot help but note the irony that the terrible acts described in the indictment occurred on the 4th of July last year," said Timothy J. Fuhrman, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office. "The initial aggressive investigative efforts by the Nampa Police Department in this matter were instrumental in leading to the indictment of these four individuals. In this day and age law enforcement cannot tolerate such activity, and the FBI is committed to investigating these incidents aggressively and without fail."
"This case is important in so much as the vigorous investigation by Nampa Detectives, cooperation by the citizens of Nampa and of the hard work on the part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that hate bias crimes are taken very seriously and will not be tolerated," said Nampa Police Department Chief Bill Augsburger.
If convicted, Bullard, Hartpence, Armstrong and Whitewater face a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. The details contained in the indictment are only allegations; the defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Nampa Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho and Trial Attorney Erin Aslan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.