Judge Sentences KKK Members to Prison

Associated Press/April 10, 2003

Lafayette, La. -- A federal judge sentenced five Ku Klux Klan members to prison Thursday, calling them "domestic terrorists" for burning a cross in the front yard of three black men.

U.S. District Judge Tucker Melancon gave the men terms ranging from a year to almost 14 years. He also fined ring leader David Anthony Fuselier $5,000 and the others $3,000, and ordered each to pay about $1,500 in restitution.

The defendants "are just as much a threat to the United States as are the foreign terrorists," the judge said.

Fuselier, 32, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate civil rights, interference with housing rights and using fire in the commission of a felony.

Pleading guilty to conspiring to violate civil rights were Christopher Aaron Hammer, 22; Samuel James Trahan, 23; Robert Alan Dartez, 27; and Berry Lynn Harris, 21.

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a state ' s power to punish those who burn crosses as an act of intimidation. The court ruled that the history of racial intimidation attached to cross burning outweighs the free speech protection of Klansmen or others who might do it.

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