Two men charged with civil rights violations appear in court

Jason Barnwell (Source: Sharp County Sheriff's Department)
Jason Barnwell (Source: Sharp County Sheriff's Department)

HARDY, AR (KAIT) - Two Sharp County men arrested on civil rights related charges Wednesday, appeared in U.S. District Court Thursday in Little Rock.

Federal officials arrested Jason Walter Barnwell and Gary Don Dodson at a home near Evening Shade Wednesday morning.  Hardy Police Chief Ernie Rose says the men are suspected of starting a fire in Hardy in January 2011 at the home of an African American man and his wife. The couple was not injured and able to put the fire out. Rose says the suspect yelled obscenities at the couple before leaving.

According to the Criminal Complaint filed in US District Court, an unidentified witness told investigators that Dodson drove Barnwell and a man named "Jake" to the African American man's home, where Barnwell and "Jake each lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it at the home.

Police say the men were upset that the man made a sexual remark to Barnwell's girlfriend.  In the complaint witnesses tell investigators that Barnwell and Dodson were part of a "skinhead" group. During the event, witnesses say Barnwell and Dodson made several racial remarks towards the homeowner.

Both Barnwell and Dodson are charged with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of another individual, interference with housing rights, use of a fire in the commission of a felony, possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Region 8 News will have more information on the charges after the court hearing Thursday afternoon.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All Rights Reserved.