FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2011
First Defendant to be Convicted at Trial Under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
WASHINGTON –Frankie Maybee, 20, of Green Forest, Ark., was convicted today by a federal jury today of five counts of committing a federal hate crime and one count of conspiring to commit a federal hate crime, announced the Justice Department. This is the first conviction at trial for a violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was enacted in October 2009. Maybee faces a maximum of 55 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000 per violation.
On May 16, 2011, co-defendant Sean Popejoy, 19, of Green Forest, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of committing a federal hate crime and one count of conspiring to commit a federal hate crime in connection with this matter.
Evidence presented at trial established that in the early morning hours of June 20, 2010, Maybee and Popejoy conspired to and did threaten and injure five Hispanic men who had pulled into a gas station parking lot. The co-conspirators pursued the victims in a truck. When the co-conspirators caught up to the victims, Popejoy leaned outside of the front passenger window and waived a tire wrench at the victims, and continued to threaten and hurl racial epithets at the victims. Maybee, driving his truck, rammed into the victims’ car repeatedly, which caused the victims’ car to cross the opposite lane of traffic, go off the road, crash into a tree and ignite. As a result of Maybee and his co-conspirators’ actions, the victims suffered bodily injury, including one victim who sustained life-threatening injuries.
“The defendants targeted five men because they were Hispanic, and today’s verdict shows that the Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting individuals who perform acts of hate because of someone’s race or national origin,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We will continue to use the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and every other tool in our law enforcement arsenal, to identify and prosecute hate crimes whenever they occur.”
“We thank the jury for their careful consideration, and for their verdict. It is horrific that acts of violence are committed against complete strangers because of their race,” Conner Eldridge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. “In this case, five Hispanic men stopped to fill up their car with gas and were violently run off the road, causing severe injuries and nearly causing death to one of them. In the Western District of Arkansas, we will continue to prosecute acts of violence that are motivated by hatred of another’s race.”
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Fayetteville, Ark., Division in cooperation with the Arkansas State Police Department and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Edward Chung of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra E. Jenner for the Western District of Arkansas.