WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Shreveport, La., returned an indictment yesterday charging Joshua James Moro, 23; Jeremy Matthew Moro, 33; and Sonya Marie Hart, 31, with offenses related to a cross-burning in Athens, La., in October 2008, near the home of an interracial couple. Another man, Daniel Danforth, was previously convicted by a federal jury for participating in the same cross-burning.
Joshua Moro was charged with one count of conspiring to interfere with another person’s civil rights. If convicted, he faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison for this charge. Joshua Moro, Jeremy Moro and Sonya Hart were each charged with one count each of making false statements to Special Agents of the FBI, and Joshua Moro and Sonya Hart were each charged with one count of perjury before the grand jury. The defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in prison for each of the false statements and perjury charges.
According to the indictment, between Oct. 23 and 26, 2008, Joshua Moro agreed with his cousin, Daniel Danforth, and another person known to the grand jury, to build, erect and burn a cross near the home of their cousin, the cousin’s African American boyfriend, her 11-year-old son and another relative who was believed to approve of the cousin’s interracial relationship. Specifically, Joshua Moro offered Danforth diesel fuel to use to burn the cross and sent a text message later that evening to see if Danforth and his other co-conspirator still needed the diesel. The indictment further alleges that Joshua Moro falsely denied his involvement in the cross-burning conspiracy to FBI agents and in his testimony before the grand jury. Finally, the indictment alleges that Jeremy Moro, whom Danforth invited to help burn the cross, and Sonya Hart, whose truck was used to help carry-out the cross-burning, falsely denied having any knowledge about the cross-burning.
Danforth was sentenced to 48 months in prison in May 2010 for his role in the cross-burning and attempted cover-up.
This case was investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary J. Mudrick for the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorney Erin Aslan from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.