U.S. Department of Justice
January 24, 2014
Office of Public Affairs
Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson for the Western District of Missouri announced that a man and a woman, both from Independence, Missouri, were sentenced in federal court today for violating the civil rights of an African-American family by setting fire to their residence.
On August 28, 2013, Logan J. Smith, 25, and Victoria A. Cheek Herrera, 34, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to one count of conspiring to threaten and intimidate a family in Independence from exercising their constitutional right to reside in their home because of their race or color and one count of a civil rights violation for committing a racially motivated arson. At the sentencing hearing today, Judge Wimes sentenced Smith to serve 63 months in prison and Cheek Herrera to serve 77 months in prison.
Smith and Cheek Herrera previously admitted that on June 26, 2008, they conspired to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate an African-American couple and their children in the free exercise of their constitutional rights to occupy and rent their home in Independence and that they committed this crime because of the victims’ race and color. According to the defendants’ plea agreements, the incident began when the defendants discussed their desire to set the victim family’s home on fire, and they drew a swastika and wrote the words “White Power” on the driveway. The defendants then asked a juvenile acquaintance for gasoline and created a Molotov cocktail by filling a glass bottle with gasoline and inserting a rag into the bottle to serve as a wick. The defendants then lit the wick and threw the bottle into the side of the house, which set the residence on fire.
“Every person in America has the right to occupy a home free from racially motivated violence and threats,” said Assistant Attorney General Samuels. “Today’s sentences reflect the Civil Rights Division’s commitment to work together with our United States Attorneys and the FBI to ensure that this right is aggressively enforced.”
“Today’s tough sentences send a strong message that racially motivated violence and threats will not be tolerated in our community,” said U.S. Attorney Dickinson. “No American should feel unwelcome or unsafe in any neighborhood because of their race or color. We will bring to justice those who violate the civil rights of others and hold them accountable for their actions.”
This case is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark and Trial Attorney Shan Patel of the Civil Rights Division. It was investigated by the FBI.