2 plead guilty in firebombing of Ark couple’s home

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Two men accused of participating in the firebombing of an interracial couple’s house pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy against rights and criminal violation of housing rights, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two men accused of participating in the firebombing of an interracial couple’s house pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy against rights and criminal violation of housing rights, the U.S. Department of Justice said. As part of their plea, Dustin Hammond, 20, and Jake Murphy, 19, admitted they and two other men devised a plan during a party on Jan. 14 to firebomb the home of a black man and a white woman in Hardy, prosecutors said. According to court documents, they had been talking about a black man who said something inappropriate about one of the men’s girlfriends. 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, but prosecutors said there was some damage to their home. Hammond and Murphy entered the pleas during a plea proceeding in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. "Firebombing a family’s home because of their race is a deplorable act of hate that will not be tolerated in our country," Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general, said in a news release issued by the Justice Department. "The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute those who resort to violent acts motivated by hate." Attorneys for Hammond and Murphy didn’t immediately return calls placed after hours seeking comment. Barnwell, Dodson and Barnwell’s girlfriend, Wendy Treybig, are scheduled to go on trial May 31, prosecutors said. Barnwell and Dodson are charged with conspiracy to interfere with the couple’s housing rights, inferring with their housing rights, possessing an unregistered firearm, using fire to commit a felony and using a destructive device to further a crime of violence. Treybig is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly tried to cover up the incident. Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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