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Two Men Plead Guilty in Kentucky Cross Burning Case

Washington, D.C. September 02, 2004
  • Department of Justice - CRM (202) 514-2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced that two men pleaded guilty to civil rights charges for their roles in a Burlington, Kentucky cross burning.

"Cross burning remains a vicious symbol of hatred," said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "All American families have the right to live where they choose, undisturbed by such racist threats. This prosecution sends a clear message that we will not tolerate this criminal conduct."

Matthew Scudder, of Florence, Kentucky, who was 18 at the time the crime was committed, and James Foster, of Independence, Kentucky, who was 19, admitted to conspiring to threaten and intimidate an African-American couple and their two children in order to drive them from their Burlington home. Scudder admitted that on July 2, 2004 he burned a wooden cross on the family's lawn. Foster admitted that he helped carry out the plan. A third defendant, who is a juvenile, is facing related federal charges.

"These defendants have taken responsibility for acts of prejudice and intimidation that are profoundly offensive," said Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. "Thankfully, these types of hate-filled acts are rare in our community. But when they do occur, this office will diligently enforce our civil rights laws."

Scudder faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine for his role in the cross burning. Foster faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for December 16, 2004.

This case was jointly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Boone County Sheriff's Office. It is being prosecuted by attorneys from the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Prosecuting bias-motivated violence has long been, and will continue to be, a priority for the Department of Justice. Since 2001, the Department has filed charges against 120 defendants in 76 cases of bias-motivated crimes. In the same period, it has prosecuted 47 defendants in 30 cross burning cases.