Justice Department Files Statement of Interest in Religious Land Use Case Involving Oregon Church That Feeds People Who are Homeless or Hungry
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that Charles Wilhelm, 23, of Independence, Mo., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., to federal hate crime charges in connection with the vandalism and arson of a bi-racial man’s home in 2006. Yesterday, Wilhelm’s co-conspirator, David Martin, 23, of Independence, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges for his role in the same incident.
Wilhelm and Martin were each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of the victim and one count of violating the Fair Housing Act, for their roles in vandalizing and burning down Nathaniel Reed’s home. Wilhelm and Martin entered guilty pleas to both counts.
The federal investigation revealed that in the summer of 2006, Wilhelm, Martin and Teresa Witthar conspired to intimidate and scare Reed, a bi-racial man, into moving out of the Highland Manor Mobile Home Park in Independence in part because of his race. On or about June 6, 2006, Wilhelm, along with Martin and Witthar, entered Reed’s home, without his permission, and vandalized it by writing at least 15 racially derogatory slurs on the walls.
Two days later, on or about June 8, 2006, Witthar drove Wilhelm and Martin to a neighbourhood behind Reed’s home so that they could set fire to Reed’s home without being detected. Wilhelm and Martin then set fire to Reed’s home, and Witthar drove them back around to Highland Manor.
In February 2012, Witthar pleaded guilty for her role in the conspiracy.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all Americans are able to occupy their homes without fear of racially-motivated reprisals,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “As this case illustrates, the Civil Rights Division will aggressively prosecute anyone who attacks and destroys a home based on the race of the person who lives there.”
“Racially-motivated violence and intimidation will not be tolerated in our community,” said Beth Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. “These conspirators resorted to vandalism, racial slurs and arson to violate another person’s civil rights, and they will be held accountable for their criminal conduct.”
These guilty pleas were the result of a cooperative effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. This case was investigated by the Kansas City Division of the FBI. It is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark for the Western District of Missouri and Trial Attorney Sheldon L. Beer of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.