Centre County Man Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violations
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - A resident of Centre County, Pa., pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of interfering with housing, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Ryan M. Held, a/k/a Ryan M. Foley, 21, of Philipsburg, Pa., pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge Kim R. Gibson.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that on Aug. 20, 2010, Held, by force and threat of force, willfully intimidated and interfered with two minor victims, one of whom was an African-American male, because of his race and because he was occupying a dwelling, and one of whom was a female who was and had been lawfully allowing such African-American male, a friend, to occupy the dwelling in which she resided. During the afternoon of August 20th, Held drove past the female victim's home in Woodland, Pa., and saw her socializing with a few friends, one of whom was African-American. Just before midnight, Held returned to the property and placed a cross in the front yard of the female victim, approximately 60 feet from the entry to her home, and set it on fire for the purpose of intimidating and interfering with her and her African-American friend. Held spent a few minutes laying in the woods bordering the property watching the cross burn and waiting to see if anyone emerged from the residence.
"Every citizen has the right to be safe in their own home, free from racial intolerance and intimidation," said U.S. Attorney Hickton. "We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute criminals whose actions are driven by bigotry and hate."
Judge Gibson scheduled sentencing for Feb. 7, 2013, at 10 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Judge Gibson revoked bond and ordered Held detained pending the sentencing proceeding.
Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn J. Bloch is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government, together with Trial Attorney Roy Conn of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Held.