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US ATTORNEY NEWS RELEASE: ABINGDON, Va. – A Marion man pleaded guilty today to using force or the threat of force to interfere with federally protected housing rights based on the race or color of the victims.

According to evidence presented at the guilty plea hearing by Assistant United States Attorney Zachary T. Lee, James Brown, 41, burned a cross on the front yard of an African-American family in the early morning hours of June 14, 2020. One of the family members had organized a civil rights protest the day before in Marion. Brown admitted to burning the cross to two witnesses and also was known to use racial epithets when referring to the African-American family.

“Acts of hatred, intimidation and the threat of force, carried out by the racially motivated cross burning in this case, illegally interfered with their federally protected housing rights,” Acting U.S. Attorney Bubar said today.  “This illegal, divisive behavior destroys communities and will not be tolerated.  I’m proud of the work of the FBI and our state partners, who brought James Brown to justice.”

“There is absolutely no room for racial intimidation or injustice occurring in our communities,” Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division said today. “FBI Richmond is steadfast in our commitment of protecting residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of race or ethnicity; and will continue to work with our investigative and prosecutorial partners to hold accountable the offenders who attempt to fracture our communities.”

Brown pleaded guilty today to one count of criminal interference with federally protected housing rights based upon the victim’s race.

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

Assistant United States Attorneys Zachary T. Lee and Daniel Murphy are prosecuting the case.