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TWO ARKANSAS MEN PLEAD GUILTY TO FEDERAL HATE CRIME FOR CROSS BURNING

July 18, 2011

Washington - Tony Branscum, 25, and James Bradley “Brad” Branscum, 23, both of Salado, Ark., pleaded guilty today to criminal violations of housing rights related to their role in the Aug. 28, 2010, cross burning in front of an African American man’s apartment in Salado, the Department of Justice announced.

The two men, who are first cousins, along with co-defendant, Curtis Coffee, 19, also of Salado, were indicted in November 2010, by a federal grand jury on civil rights charges and other related federal charges stemming from their participation in the cross burning.

Both Branscums admitted in court that on the night of Aug. 28, 2010, they, along with Coffee, devised a plan to burn a cross in the yard of an African-American in the Salado community. Thereafter, Tony Branscum constructed a wooden cross in a workshop behind his house. The men then covered the cross in gasoline-soaked clothing and Brad Branscum drove them and the cross to the victim’s residence. Upon arriving at the residence, one of the men propped up the cross on a satellite dish and ignited it.

“Interfering with a person’s housing rights because of his race will not be tolerated in our country,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute individuals that violate the rights of others because of race.”

Both Tony and Brad Branscum face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

This case was investigated by the Little Rock, Ark., Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ray White of the Eastern District of Arkansas and Trial Attorneys Cindy Chung and Henry Leventis of the Civil Rights Division.

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Christopher R. Thyer

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