Former Ku Klux Klan leader sentenced for role in 2009 Ozark cross burning, Alabama/May 15, 2014

By Erin Edgemon

Montgomery, Alabama -- The former leader of an Ozark chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was sentenced today in federal court to serve 24 months in prison in a 2009 cross burning.

Steven Joshua Dinkle, 28, a former Exalted Cyclops of the Ozark chapter of the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), pleaded guilty in February to committing a hate crime and obstructing justice for his role in the crossing, according to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.

"It is sad that, in this day and age, people are still filled with such hate," U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. stated. "To act on such hate and burn a cross turns that hate into a crime which should not, and will not, be tolerated.  Prosecuting these type crimes will continue to be a priority of my office."

Court documents show Dinkle and one of his KKK recruits, Thomas Windell Smith, met at Dinkle's home on May 8, 2009, and decided to burn a cross in a local black neighborhood.

Dinkle constructed a wooden cross 6-foot tall cross, wrapped with jeans and a towel to make it more flammable and loaded it into Smith's truck.

Around 8 p.m., Dinkle and Smith drove to the African-American neighborhood in Ozark, according to court documents.

Dinkle unloaded the cross at the entrance to the community and dug a hole in the ground.

 He poured fuel on the cross, stood it up in the hole in view of several houses and set it on fire

When questioned by local investigators, Dinkle denied involvement in the incident and stated that he had resigned his office and withdrawn from the KKK months before the cross burning.

When approached by the FBI, Dinkle again lied and told a special agent that he had been at home with his girlfriend when the cross burning occurred.

During the plea hearing, Dinkle admitted that in burning the cross, he intended to scare and intimidate residents of the black community by threatening the use of force against them.

"Defendant Dinkle chose to burn the cross at the very entrance to an African-American neighborhood so that anyone coming or going would see the fiery cross," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division.  "He intended to intimidate the community's residents in their own homes and neighborhood.  There is no place for such conduct in our society and the department will continue to prosecute these violent acts of hate."

Dinkle's co-conspirator, Smith, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate housing rights in December 2013, and he is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 19.

Dinkle's mother, Pamela Morris, is charged with two counts of perjury arising out of the investigation into the cross burning.  Her trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 4.

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