A federal judge sentenced an Independence man and woman Thursday for racially motivated arson of a black family’s home in 2008.
Victoria A. Cheek-Herrera, 34, was sentenced to more than six years, while Logan J. Smith, 25, received more than five years for their roles in violating the civil rights of the family on June 26, 2008.
Cheek-Herrera and Smith pleaded guilty last August to two counts each of racially motivated arson and conspiring to threaten and intimidate to keep members of a family from exercising their constitutional right to live in their home because of their race or color.
U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes sentenced Cheek Herrera to 73 months and Smith to 63 months in federal prison.
“Today’s tough sentences send a strong message that racially motivated violence and threats will not be tolerated in our community,” Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a press release. “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.”
In their plea agreement with the government, Smith and Cheek-Herrera admitted discussing their desire to set fire to the home, that they drew a swastika and wrote “White Power” on the driveway, and that they made and lit a Molotov cocktail – a glass bottle filled with gasoline, with a rag inserted to serve as a wick – and threw it into the side of the house in the 600 block of South Arlington Street, setting it on fire.
“Every person in America has the right to occupy a home free from racially-motivated violence and threats,” Assistant Attorney General Samuels said in the release. “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.”