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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, September 9, 2016

Pasco County Men Charged In Cross Burning

Tampa, FL – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces the unsealing of an indictment charging William A. Dennis (55, Spring Hill) and Thomas Herris Sigler, III (45, Land O’ Lakes) with conspiracy to interfere with an interracial couple’s enjoyment of their constitutionally protected housing rights. Dennis is also charged with making false statements to federal law enforcement officers. If convicted on all counts, Dennis faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison, and Sigler faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. 

According to the indictment, in 2012, Dennis and Sigler were living on Seward Drive in Port Richey. After an interracial couple moved next door to the house where Sigler was residing, the men repeatedly made racial slurs and racially derogatory statements to the African-American neighbor, which escalated to verbal and physical threats.

On Halloween night, Dennis and Sigler attended a party at a neighbor’s house, where the they and several other Seward Drive residents conspired to burn a cross in the African-American man’s yard to intimidate him. The conspirators constructed a wooden cross and obtained a flammable liquid to pour on the cross. They then carried the cross to the victims’ front yard, leaned it against the victims’ mailbox, and lit the cross on fire. 

“Hate-motivated crimes will not be tolerated in our community,” said U.S. Attorney Bentley. “This case underscores our commitment to prosecute those who commit crimes driven by hatred or intolerance.”

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Josephine W. Thomas and Simon A. Gaugush, with assistance from the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Topic: 
Civil Rights
Updated September 9, 2016