Howard County police have filed misdemeanor hate-crime charges against a 44-year-old Laurel man in connection with an attempted cross burning and tire slashings that occurred last fall.

Thomas Donovan Spain of the 10600 block of Glen Hannah Drive was served with a summons late last week and charged with one count of bias-related harassment, one count of bias-related destruction of property and three counts of destruction of property. The two hate-crime counts each carry a sentence of up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Police began their investigation in November when residents of a townhouse community off Glen Hannah Drive reported that a small, partially burned wooden cross had been found in a common area of the development.

In addition, tires on two vehicles in the community had been slashed. Police later discovered graffiti on a utility pole in the area that included profanities and a swastika, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

She said an African American family who lived near where the cross was found was victimized by one of the tire slashings. Spain is white.

A Sept. 1 hearing date on the charges has been set in Howard County District Court.