WASHINGTON – Joe Brown of Collinsville, Ill., pleaded guilty in federal court today to conspiring to violate the civil rights of an African-American couple and their white friend by encouraging another man to spray-paint racial threats and epithets on the home where the three victims lived in Collinsville.
Brown also pleaded guilty to lying to an FBI agent investigating the hate crime. Brown faces a maximum of 16 years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 13, 2009.
Brown admitted that he conspired with co-defendant William Bowen to frighten and intimidate the three victims by spray-painting the victims’ home with racial threats. The defendant admitted that the purpose of the conspiracy was to frighten and intimidate the victims because of their race and to scare them into moving out of the neighborhood where they lived.
Bowen pleaded guilty in July 2008 to civil rights violations and will be sentenced on Oct. 31, 2008.
"The right of every individual to live peacefully in his or her own home without being terrorized because of race is protected by the laws of the United States," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute vigorously anyone who engages in this kind of criminal conduct."
This case was investigated by Special Agent Rick Crouse of the Springfield Office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Bobbi Bernstein and Trial Attorney Kevonne Small of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Angi Scott from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois.