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Virginia man pleads guilty in cross burning that targeted Black teenager

A Southwest Virginia man accused of burning a cross last year outside the home of a Black teenager who had organized a civil rights protest march the day before, pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The incident occurred June 14 in Marion, Va., near the Tennessee border. Authorities said James Brown, now 41, covered a wooden cross in cloth, doused it with a flame accelerant, placed it in a barrel and set it on fire.

“There is absolutely no room for racial intimidation or injustice occurring in our communities,” Stanley M. Meador, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division, said in a statement Thursday after Brown appeared in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Virginia said Brown pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with federally protected housing rights based upon the victim’s race. His plea agreement allows for a prison term of up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine. He is free on bail pending an August sentencing hearing.