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Press Release

Local Man Arrested for Lying About Marion Cross Burning, Interfering with Fair Housing Based on Race

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – James Brown, of Marion, Virginia, was arrested this afternoon and charged with lying to federal agents about his involvement in the burning of a cross on the front lawn of an African-American woman’s home and criminal interference with fair housing based upon the victim’s race. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and Neil L. Mathison, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division made the announcement.

“The frightening act at the center of today’s complaint—a racially motivated cross burning—interfered with the victim’s federally protected right to fair housing,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “Acts of violence, threats, and other forms of intimidation prompted by racial animus are serious federal crimes, and we will continue to work closely with the FBI to hold offenders accountable.”       

“The FBI is committed to protecting all citizens, and will aggressively investigate acts of intimidation or violence against anyone based on race or ethnicity,” Acting Special Agent in Charge Mathison said today. “We thank the Marion County Police Department, the Smyth County Sheriff's Office and the United States Attorney's Office's Western District of Virginia for their swift and direct attention to this incident.”

Brown, 40, was arrested today on a federal criminal complaint charging him with lying to federal agents and criminal interference with fair housing based upon the victim’s race.

According to court documents, on June 14, 2020, at approximately 12:55 a.m., the Marion Police Department received a report of a burning cross in the front yard of an African-American family, one of whom had organized a civil rights protest the day before. In the following days, working with the FBI, investigators learned of the involvement of Brown. When questioned by investigators if he had anything to do with the cross-burning incident, Brown allegedly lied. Witnesses interviewed during the investigation stated that Brown admitted to the cross burning and used racial epithets when referring to the African American family.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Marion Police Department, and the Smyth County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Zachary T. Lee is prosecuting the case for the United States.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.       

Updated June 26, 2020

Civil Rights