US Attorney: Marion man sentenced for burning cross in Black family’s front yard

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ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — A release from the United States Attorney’s Office on Friday revealed that a Marion man accused of burning a cross in a Black family’s front yard in 2020 has been sentenced.

James Brown, 41, pleaded guilty in April to criminal interference with federally protected housing rights based on the victim’s race and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

This crime was reported amid the civil unrest following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May 2020.

According to court documents, Brown burned a cross in a Black family’s front yard in the early morning hours of June 14, 2020.

One of the family members, part of a Virginia BLM movement group the New Panthers, had organized a civil rights demonstration in response to Floyd’s death the day before the cross burning.

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 the report “matches the description of [James] Brown, who is believed to be Puerto Rican descent.”

Brown admitted that he had burned the cross to threaten and intimidate the Black family, and a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed he was known to use racial epithets when referring to the family.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Marion Police Department and Smyth County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.

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