Daniel Earl Danforth, 31, of Minden, La., was sentenced to four years in prison and three years of supervised release in federal court in Shreveport, La., on federal hate crime and obstruction of justice charges in connection with a cross-burning he carried out with others near the home of an interracial couple in Athens, La., the Justice Department
Danforth was convicted on Jan. 21, 2010, following a jury trial. At trial, the evidence revealed that on Oct. 23 or 24, 2008, Danforth agreed with his two cousins to build, erect and burn a cross near the homes of a cousin and her African-American boyfriend (now husband), and other relatives who approved of their interracial relationship. Danforth and his co-conspirators built the cross using two pine trees, wire or cable and a large nail. One of Danforth's cousins then went to get diesel fuel to use to burn the cross. Meanwhile, Danforth and his other cousin transported the cross to an area adjacent to the victims' homes where, using chainsaw gas, they set the cross on fire in order to intimidate the victims. On Oct. 26, 2008, Danforth telephoned a relative who was living with the victims and directed her to the location of the burned cross.
"Driven only by bigotry and hate, the defendant threatened members of his own family with violence because they associated with persons of another race. Incidents of this kind have no place in this country, and they are a reminder of the civil rights challenges we still face in 2010," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division
"The defendant's burning cross was designed to send a terrifying message of racial intolerance and intimidation to a couple who desired nothing more than to live in their home in peace," said William J. Flanagan, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.
Evidence also showed that several days later, after the defendant and his co-conspirators learned that the FBI was investigating the crime as a potential civil rights violation, Danforth, his cousin who helped transport and burn the cross, and the cousin's girlfriend formed a plan to get rid of the burned cross to prevent the FBI from discovering it and using it as evidence. Danforth's cousin drove Danforth to the woods behind the victims' homes, where Danforth removed the cross, disassembled it and hid it in the woods in an effort to thwart the FBI investigation into the cross-burning.
On April 28, 2010, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Danforth's cousin, Joshua James Moro, for his participation in the civil rights conspiracy. The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary J. Mudrick for the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorney Erin Aslan from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division