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Three Tennessee Men Sentenced for Launching Mortar-Style Fireworks at African-Americans

This news story was published on April 16, 2012.
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Colton L. Partin, 22, of Apison, Tenn., Kyle C. Montgomery, 23, and James Smiley, 27, both of Chattanooga, Tenn., were sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Curtis L. Collier. Smiley and Montgomery were sentenced to 12 months in prison and three years of supervised release for conspiring to intimidate African-Americans in the free exercise and enjoyment of housing rights secured to them by the laws of the United States. Partin was sentenced to 18 months probation, including six months home confinement.  All three men will also serve 300 hours of community service.  The men pleaded guilty on Jan. 6, 2012.

In the early morning hours of July 9, 2011, at least four African-American residents of East Lake Courts Public Housing Authority in Chattanooga were on the porch of one of the units. As they conversed, defendants Smiley, Partin and Montgomery drove by several times yelling racial slurs and launched mortar-type fireworks, from a cylinder, directly toward these individuals. The individuals on the porch avoided the explosions, one of which was captured on video by the Chattanooga Housing Authority. Another explosion shattered a window pane in an apartment of an African-American resident of the East Lake Courts. This individual was asleep inside with her infant child and her boyfriend’s adolescent siblings.

Based on a 911 call, the Chattanooga Police Department swiftly apprehended and arrested Smiley, Partin and Montgomery. Fireworks, like the ones fired at the individuals on the porch, were photographed and observed in the bed of the truck. Smiley, Partin and Montgomery admitted their involvement to the officers. They further admitted that the explosives were fired toward the individuals in order to intimidate them because they were African-American.

“Today’s sentence sends the clear message that every person in our country has the right to live peacefully in their communities free from hate-fueled acts of violence,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The department is committed to vigorously enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws.”

“This is an example to others that the exhibition of actions based upon racial or any other kind of prejudice will result in federal convictions and confinement, said Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.   Acts of violence based upon prejudice, regardless of the nature of the prejudice, will be actively prosecuted.”

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