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Three Indicted in Indianapolis Cross-Burning

December 10, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Three men were indicted Tuesday on charges of burning a cross outside the home of a racially mixed couple in Indianapolis.

Since January, the Justice Department has filed charges against 38 defendants in cross-burning incidents.

A three-count indictment was returned in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis against Stephen J. Hartbarger, 26; Lonnie R. Hartbarger, 21; and Phillip W. Lafary, 31, all of Indianapolis.

The grand jury charged them with violating federal civil rights laws by burning a cross on the lawn in front of the trailer belonging to Wilbur and Lisa Burton and their three children, aged 2, 5 and 6, at the Lake of Lanterns trailer park.

The defendants allegedly constructed the 3-by-5-foot wooden cross at Lafary’s home and then took it to the Burtons’ home and set it afire. At 8:30 p.m., a neighbor alerted the Burtons to the burning cross. Mrs. Burton opened the door and she and her children saw the cross, which was covered with 25 to 30 firecrackers; Mr. Burton was at work and returned home upon hearing of the incident, the government said.

If convicted, each defendant faces up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. The charges are conspiracy to violate civil rights, using force or threats against people exercising their right to occupy a dwelling and using fire to commit a felony.

``Cross burnings strike at the heart of the community and must be stopped,″ said Assistant Attorney General Deval L. Patrick, head of the civil rights division.

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