Federal Court Wants New Sentence for Men Convicted in Cross-Burning

FOUKE, AR - A federal appeals court says new sentences are in order for two men convicted of burning a cross near the southwest Arkansas home of a mixed-race family in an effort to drive a black man from a neighborhood.

On August 5, 2005, a cross was burned in Anthony Briggins' yard in Fouke.  A panel of the 8th U.S. Circout Court of Appeals at St. Louis ruled yesterday that U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes was wrong to conclude that James Bradley Weems and Christopher Mitchell were only minor participants in the incident.  The men were sentenced to a month in prison, five months of home detention and two years' supervised released.

The Appeals Court said that, while jurors determined the incident to be a hate crime because Briggins is black, Barnes failed to calculate a stiffer sentence for the men as was required under federal sentencing guidelines.  The panel did not suggest a specific sentence but vacated the one-month terms and directed the Arkansas federal court to resentence the men in accordance with today's ruling.

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