WASHINGTON – Michael Bullard and Richard Armstrong were convicted yesterday by a jury in Boise, Idaho, on federal hate crime and conspiracy charges in connection with the racially-motivated assault of an African American man outside of a Wal-Mart store in July 2008.
Bullard and Armstrong each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct.19, 2009. A third defendant, James Whitewater, pleaded guilty before trial and testified against the other two defendants.
Evidence revealed that on July 4, 2008, three men using racial slurs ambushed, chased and beat a 24-year-old African American man as he walked out of a Wal-Mart store in Nampa, Idaho. Witnesses testified that Bullard, Armstrong and Whitewater all participated in the assault, while a fourth person, a girlfriend of one of the defendants, held their belongings and cheered them on. The girlfriend, Jennifer Hartpence, was initially charged as a co-defendant, but her case was dismissed before it reached the jury.
After four hours of deliberation, the jury convicted the two remaining defendants of conspiring to violate the federally-protected rights of the victim and of actually violating the victim’s protected rights by engaging in the racially-motivated assault.
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"Driven by bigotry and prejudice, the defendants brutally assaulted a young man for no other reason than the color of his skin. Hate crimes have no place in America, and we are pleased that a jury of their peers has brought the defendants to justice," said Assistant Attorney General King. "The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously prosecute those who commit these heinous crimes to the full extent the law allows."
"These convictions mean that racial crimes will not be tolerated, not in this country, not on any day. Idaho, like most other parts of this nation, has had inglorious moments in its past when people endured oppression and criminal acts merely because of their skin color, race, national origin, gender or religion. We are long past that time," said U.S. Attorney Moss. "We thank the FBI and the Nampa Police Department for their outstanding work in bringing this case forward."
"One cannot help but note the irony of how these terrible acts occurred on the 4th of July," said Special Agent in Charge Fuhrman. "In this day and age, law enforcement will not tolerate hate crimes. The FBI is committed to investigating these incidents aggressively and without hesitation."
"The victim of these crimes was minding his own business, shopping in a store in our city open to the public – as all of us do, and have a right to do, every day. This man paid a high price, an example to all that we must protect our rights with courage and be vigilant in defending the rights of our fellow citizens," said Chief Augsburger.