Friday, April 13, 2012

Men Who Fired Fireworks at Blacks in Chattanooga Sentenced

A white trio who made an early-morning raid with high-powered fireworks at a predominantly-black housing development was ordered Thursday to serve jail time and perform 300 hours of community service. Federal Judge Curtis Collier sentenced James D. Smiley, 27, and Kyle Montgomery, 22, to 12 months. Colton Partin, who got a break for giving the FBI details about the July 9, 2011, foray, was sentenced to six months of house arrest. The 22-year-old Partin is on probation for 18 months. The sentencing range was 12-18 months. The range for Partin was cut to 4-12 months because prosecutor Chris Poole said he came forward and gave details of the raid. He said as the three were leaving jail they agreed that it was "one for all and all for one," but he said Partin decided to tell exactly what happened. He said Partin stated that it was true they were targeting black citizens after a drinking bout that started around 1 p.m. the previous day. They were also ordered to pay $27.47 to Angela Williams, who said she was on the porch at the East Lake Courts with three other black persons, when a white pickup truck drove up at 3:30 a.m. The amount was for medication she bought afterward. Ms. Williams said the first time the truck passed by the individuals were smiling "and we were smiling with them." But she said the next time they shouted racial epithets and on still another pass they fired mortar-type fireworks that sent up a large amount of smoke and shattered the first pane of a double-pane window. An off-duty police officer stopped the truck a short time after the incident. The trio earlier entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit civil rights intimidation. All three defendants issued apologies to the black community. Smiley turned to address Ms. Williams directly. She responded that she accepted the apologies. She said at first, "It put almost hatred in my heart." But she said she had a religious conversion and was baptized after the incident. She said she would be praying for the three defendants. Ms. Williams, who said she still has anxiety attacks due to the incident, said she has five grandchildren "and I teach them that we're all God's children and are equal in his sight." Among those in the audience were minister Paul McDaniel and a number of black citizens who were allowed to sit in the jury box because other seats in the courtroom were taken. A representative of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., who deals with hate crimes called for maximum punishment. She said the attack "was based solely on the color of the skin" of the victims and "was done in a particularly violent way." She also asked that they be ordered to undergo racial sensitivity training and substance abuse treatment and that Smiley pay a fine since his net worth was listed at over $9,000. Smiley had been a Hamilton County EMT for over two years at the time of the incident, and Montgomery was a mental health specialist working with children who also wanted to be an EMT. Smiley was involved in a prior incident where he drove across the centerline and a person in the vehicle he struck was killed. Prosecutor Poole had told the judge, "The community is watching this case. The message should be that if you commit (a hate crime) you are going to get punished." Judge Collier said he did not see the incident as "a stupid prank" as some who wrote letters to him did. He said it was much more serious and could have hurt or killed someone. He said the East Lake Court residents should have been able to sit out on their porches or sleep in their beds without being attacked or have the N word shouted at them.