WASHINGTON – Joseph Kuzlik, of Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced today to 27 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for committing a racially motivated crime which violated the federally protected civil rights of a Cleveland family. Kuzlik was also ordered to pay restitution of $23,000 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), $767 to the Ohio EPA, and additional sums to the individual victims who suffered financial losses as a result of the offenses. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Patricia Anne Gaughan said, “The abusive and serious nature of this offense is obvious to anyone with a modicum of decency and morality. I cannot imagine the terror that was inflicted on these victims. A message must be sent loud and clear that this behavior will not be tolerated and will result in a punishment at the high end of the guideline range.”
On Nov. 27, 2006, Kuzlik pleaded guilty to conspiring to interfere with the federally protected housing rights of an interracial family because of their race, and for making false statements to federal investigators. Another Cleveland resident, David Fredericy, was sentenced on Jan. 17, 2007, to serve 33 months in prison for his role in the crime.
Fredericy and Kuzlik engaged in a series of acts intended to threaten and intimidate interracial residents in their neighborhood, including placing toxic mercury on the porch of a family with children for the purpose of intimidating them because one of the parents was African-American. As part of his guilty plea, Kuzlik admitted that he and Fredericy were attempting to intimidate the family and drive them from the neighborhood. In order to keep their unlawful actions secret, both Fredericy and Kuzlik lied to federal investigators from the EPA, the federal agency initially charged with cleaning up the mercury and investigating the incident.
“Bias-motivated acts of violence are despicable and intolerable, especially when they involve innocent children,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to the vigorous prosecution of these types of federal hate crimes.”
Gregory White, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said, “Today’s sentence is a fitting conclusion to a joint effort by the FBI, the U.S. EPA, the Ohio EPA, and the Cleveland Police Department, and demonstrates the commitment of both state and federal law enforcement authorities to protecting every citizen’s basic right to live in and enjoy his or her own home without fear of racial intimidation.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann C. Rowland and Trial Attorney Kristy L. Parker of the Civil Rights Division.
Prosecuting the perpetrators of bias-motivated crimes is a top priority of the Justice Department. Since 2001, the Civil Rights Division has charged 163 defendants in 103 cases of bias-motivated crimes.