Cross Burning Crime


November 10, 2011

It’s a case reminiscent of the post-World War I era when the FBI began investigating the Ku Klux Klan.


Audio Transcript

Mollie Halpern: It’s a case reminiscent of the post-World War I era when the FBI began investigating the Ku Klux Klan.

Bradley W. Orsini: The investigation was similar to an old fashioned “who done it.”

Halpern: I’m Mollie Halpern of the FBI, and this is Gotcha. An argument between a 16-year-old African-American boy and 21-year-old Michael Bracken about a high school football game led to a hate crime in western Pennsylvania. Supervisory Special Agent Bradley Orsini…

Orsini: It was Bracken’s idea to build a cross and burn it in his yard.

Halpern: Bracken and his two co-conspirators built a “practice cross” to determine how effectively it would burn. Then, they built the actual cross and planted it in the victim’s backyard.

Orsini: They poured gasoline over the six-foot cross and ignited it; it went up in flames.

Halpern: The FBI and its law enforcement partners conducted interviews, canvassed crime scenes, and used search warrants to examine text messages and social media sites.

Orsini: We flooded the small town with numerous FBI agents.

Halpern: The men pled guilty and were sentenced between 12 and 18 months in prison. This is the FBI’s closed case of the week.

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