ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — Authorities say a man has been arrested in connection with a cross burning incident that happened in Marion.
Authorities arrested James Brown, 40 of Marion, on Friday on a federal criminal complaint charging him with lying to federal agents and criminal interference with fair housing based upon the victim’s race.
Marion Police Chief John Clair said Brown is accused of burning the cross. The police chief explained that the charge of criminal interference with fair housing is used to prosecute cross burning incidents.
Earlier this month, the Marion Police Department responded to the site of a possible cross burning in front of the home Travon Brown, who had organized a march earlier in the day.
Clair confirmed that James Brown and Travon Brown are not related.
According to a court filing, a witness noticed a fire in front of the victim’s house and saw a “white, skinny man” walking away from the victim’s residence. The filing states that “matches the description of [James] Brown, who is believed to be Puerto Rican descent.”
U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said Friday that Brown lied when interviewed by federal investigators about his involvement in the incident. According to Cullen, witnesses interviewed during the investigation stated that Brown admitted to the cross burning and used racial epithets when referring to the African-American family that lived at the home.
“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,” Cullen said in a news release. “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. “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.”
This is a developing story. Look for updates on WJHL.com.