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Indiana Man Sentenced to Federal Prison After Trying to Intimidate Black Neighbor by Displaying Burned Cross, Including Sign with Racial Slurs Over Tree Removal

The Department of Justice announced Monday, June 21, that an Indiana man has been sentenced to 46 months in prison and three years of supervised release after making racially motivated threats to a Black neighbor in June 2020.

Shepherd Hoehn, 51, of Lawrence, pleaded guilty in February to violating the Fair Housing Act and for unlawfully possessing firearms.

A sunny morning on a exclusive american residential suburb (Getty/stock photo)

“Today, Mr. Hoehn was held responsible for his vile conduct,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John E. Childress. “We are a diverse nation, bound together by shared values and beliefs.  We are also a nation of laws. Those like Mr. Hoehn who would betray our shared values and beliefs through behavior such as this rightly suffer the penalties our laws prescribe.” 

Hoehn became upset last June last year when a construction crew began working to remove a tree from his Black neighbor’s yard and subsequently took steps to intimidate the neighbor and construction crew. Hoehn placed a burned cross above the fence line facing the neighbor’s property. He also displayed a swastika on the outer side of the fence directed at the neighbor, alongside a sign with several anti-Black slurs and a machete. Hoehn played the Confederate-era anthem “Dixie” on repeat, and threw eggs at the neighbor’s home.

“Incidents of harassment and intimidation such as this are intended to create fear and this sentence clearly shows targeting someone based on race, sexual identity or religious beliefs will not be tolerated,”  said Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan of the FBI Indianapolis Division. “Crimes motivated by bias will continue to be investigated by the FBI and our law enforcement partners, and perpetrators held responsible for their actions.”

When authorities executed a search warrant on Hoehn’s home in July, they found several firearms and and drug paraphernalia.

Hoehn faced two counts of unlawfully possessing a firearm and a federal hate crime charge. He faced up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the violations.

“Every person in the United States has the right to live in their home free from the threat of violence based on race,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The federal government will not tolerate, and will prosecute to the fullest extent the law allows, the sort of race-based threat that this defendant engaged in. We will continue fighting against racially motivated conduct, too often used to drive people from their homes and their communities.”

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