A former leader of the US white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan was arrested and charged with burning a cross in a black neighborhood in 2009, officials said Friday.
Police watch as members of the Ku Klux Clan participate in a march on July 11, 2009 in Pulaski, Tennessee (Getty/AFP, Spencer Platt)
Steven Dinkle, 28, who was an "exalted cyclops," the name given to leaders of the KKK, was charged in a five-count indictment Wednesday over the burning of the large cross in the city of Ozark in the southern state of Alabama and with obstruction of justice, according to a statement.
His mother, Pamela Morris, 45, the former secretary of the KKK chapter, was arrested on November 21 for committing perjury before the grand jury investigating the cross burning.
The indictment alleges Dinkle "conspired with another person to burn a cross in an African-American neighborhood to threaten and intimidate residents of that neighborhood and thereby interfere with their federally protected housing rights."
He is accused of having constructed a six-foot cross which he wrapped in jeans and a towel, transporting it to the entrance of the neighborhood, pouring fuel on it, sticking it in the ground and lighting it on fire.
Dinkle is accused of then lying to investigators by saying he had quit the KKK before the cross burning, providing a false alibi and denying he knew an individual who was his superior in the KKK.
Dinkle is charged with conspiracy to violate housing rights, criminal interference with the right to fair housing, using fire to commit a federal felony and two counts of obstruction of justice.
If convicted on all counts, Dinkle faces up to 55 years in prison and $1 million in fines.