Department of Justice

ALABAMA — A Ku Klux Klan leader pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to hate crime and obstruction of justice for his role in a 2009 cross burning incident, say federal prosecutor

Steven Joshua Dinkle, 28, former Exalted Cyclops of the Ozark, Ala., chapter of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK, decided to burn a cross in a local African-American neighborhood.

“By targeting the victims with a blazing cross in the night, one of the most threatening racial symbols in our nation’s history, the defendant attempted to terrorize a neighborhood because of the color of the residents’ skin,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division.  “Prosecuting these racially motivated crimes will continue to be a priority for the Department of Justice.”

Court documents indicate that Dinkle and one of his KKK recruits, Thomas Windell Smith, met at Dinkle’s home on May 8, 2009 and decided to burn a cross at the neighborhood.

 Around 8:00 p.m., Dinkle and Smith drove to an African-American neighborhood in Ozark.  Dinkle unloaded the cross at the entrance to the community and dug a hole in the ground, then poured fuel on the cross, stood it up in the hole in view of several houses and set it on fire.  Dinkle and Smith then drove away.

Federal officials said Dinkle is facing many years in prison.  He has not yet be scheduled for sentencing.

Dinkle’s co-conspirator, Smith, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate housing rights in December 2013.  He is scheduled to be sentenced in March, according to prosecutors.


By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.