A Richmond Hill man was indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury for burning a cross in a neighbor’s yard because he believed the man to be an African-American, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.
Gene Hoyt Vandiver, 34, is charged with one count of interfering with housing rights and one count of arson.
According to the Justice Department, Vandiver, who is white, also reportedly left a sign in his neighbor’s yard with a racial slur and a hand-drawn picture of a person being lynched.
Attempts to find contact information for Vandiver were unsuccessful Friday.
“Cross-burning remains a vicious symbol of hate and no one should have to suffer the fear and intimidation caused by such a cruel act,” said U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver. “My office will work diligently with our law enforcement partners to prosecute criminal civil rights violations of any form.”
Vandiver had his initial appearance in federal court on Oct. 10 in Savannah before U.S. Magistrate G.R. Smith.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Richmond Hill Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tania Groover and Greg Gilluly are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States
The interfering with housing rights charge against Vandiver carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence; the arson charge carries a 10-year consecutive prison sentence. Tarver said an indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt.