Men plead not guilty to race crime charges

Four men accused of targeting an Arkansas interracial couple in a Molotov cocktail attack pleaded not guilty Thursday to all charges, the AP reports. After brief appearances in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, three of the men — Jason Barnwell, Gary Dodson and Jake Murphy — were remanded to custody. The fourth man, Dustin Hammond, was released on several conditions set by U.S. Magistrate Judge H. David Young.

The four men are each charged with conspiracy to interfere with the couple’s housing rights, actually interfering with their housing rights, possessing an unregistered firearm, using a firearm to commit a felony and using a destructive device to further a crime of violence. Barnwell also is charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm. Attorneys for all four men declined to comment.

An attorney for Barnwell’s live-in girlfriend, Wendy Treybig, also entered a not guilty plea on her behalf. She was charged with obstruction of justice as prosecutors said she tried to cover up the incident. She was released Thursday and she has declined to comment.

Barnwell, Dodson, Hammond, Murphy and Treybig are due back in court May 31.

The charges stem from allegations the four men and several others were partying at Barnwell’s home in northern Arkansas in January, when they started talking about a black man who had supposedly said something inappropriate about one of the men’s girlfriends, according to court documents. 

Murphy grabbed beer bottles and rags from Barnwell’s house and the four piled into a vehicle, with Dodson behind the wheel, prosecutors allege in court filings. They stopped to get gas, which all but Dodson later used to make Molotov cocktails. They drove on to the married couple’s home and Murphy lobbed at least one Molotov cocktail at the trailer, according to the indictment.

A bottle sailed through a window and part of the home caught on fire. The couple wasn’t injured.

Barnwell faces up to 85 years in prison if he’s convicted. Dodson, Murphy and Hammond face up to 70 years in prison, and Treybig faces up to 20 years if convicted.

 

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