Marion Police, Smyth County Sheriff's Office investigate burning cross in Marion family’s yard

The area where a burning barrel containing what appeared to be a cross was located is taped off during a joint investigation between the Marion Police Department and the Smyth County Sheriff’s Office.

MARION, Va. — James Brown, of Marion, Virginia, was arrested Friday afternoon and charged with lying to federal agents about his involvement in the burning of a cross on the front lawn of an African-American woman’s home and criminal interference with fair housing based upon the victim’s race, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

“The frightening act at the center of today’s complaint—a racially motivated cross burning—interfered with the victim’s federally protected right to fair housing,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen stated today. “Acts of violence, threats, and other forms of intimidation prompted by racial animus are serious federal crimes, and we will continue to work closely with the FBI to hold offenders accountable.”

Brown, 40, was arrested on a federal criminal complaint charging him with lying to federal agents and criminal interference with fair housing based upon the victim’s race.

Brown and the victim have the same last name but are not related, according to the Marion police chief. They reside in the same neighborhood.

According to court documents, on June 14, 2020, at approximately 12:55 a.m., the Marion Police Department received a report of a burning cross in the front yard of an African-American family, one of whom had organized a civil rights protest the day before. In the following days, working with the FBI, investigators learned of the involvement of Brown. When questioned by investigators if he had anything to do with the cross-burning incident, Brown allegedly lied. Witnesses interviewed during the investigation stated that Brown admitted to the cross burning and used racial epithets when referring to the African American family.

The FBI conducted the investigation.

rsorrell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2531 | Twitter: @RSorrellBHC | Facebook.com/robertsorrelltn

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