A federal grand jury in Fort Smith, Ark., has indicted five men from the Donaldson, Ark., area on federal civil rights charges as well as charges of making false statements to the FBI. The indictment was returned under seal on April 21, 2009.
The grand jury alleged that from June 15, 2008, through June 21, 2008, Jacob Wingo, 20, Dustin Nix, 21, Darren McKim, 38, Richard Robins, 42, and Clayton Morrison, 29, conspired to drive a woman and her young children from their home in Donaldson because they believed the woman was associating with African American men. The indictment also alleges that on June 21, 2008, Wingo, Nix and Morrison attempted to interfere with the victims’ federally protected housing rights by erecting a cross in the victims’ yard and attempting to set it on fire. Finally, the indictment charges Wingo, McKim, Robins and Morrison with making false statements to the FBI during the course of its investigation.
The five defendants were arraigned today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant and each entered a not guilty plea. A jury trial date has been set for June 12, 2009, in U.S. District court in Hot Springs, Ark., before U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. If convicted on the conspiracy charge, each defendant faces a maximum prison sentence of ten years and a fine of up to $250,000. Wingo, Nix and Morrison also face an additional maximum prison sentence of ten years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the cross-burning charge. Finally, Wingo, McKim, Robins and Morrison face an additional maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to $250,000 for the false statement counts.
Agents from the FBI’s Little Rock Division investigated this matter. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Quinn for the Western District of Arkansas and Special Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Benjamin Hawk of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit race-motivated acts of violence that interfere with federally protected activities.