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Two Independence residents are sentenced in hate crime

Updated: 2014-01-24T00:32:03Z

By MARK MORRIS

The Kansas City Star

Two Independence residents on Thursday each received sentences of more than five years in prison for intimidating an African-American family at its Independence home in 2008.

U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes sentenced Victoria A. Cheek Herrera, 34, to 77 months in prison and Logan J. Smith, 25, to 63 months.

Cheek Herrera and Smith admitted in August that in June 2008, they violated the civil rights of the family. Cheek Herrera helped Smith draw a swastika on his head. He yelled “white power” and made “heil Hitler” gestures at the home in the 600 block of South Arlington Avenue.

The two drew a swastika and wrote “white power” on the driveway.

They also made a crude gasoline bomb and threw it against the house. Damage was minor and the bomb caused no injuries, but it struck near a window to a room where children slept.

“This is very serious conduct,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark. “They’re very lucky they’re not here on a much more serious charge.”

Cheek Herrera, who received more time because of her prior convictions for forgery and stealing, apologized.

“I just want to say I’m sorry,” Cheek Herrera said. “I can’t take back what I’ve done. Whatever you give me I deserve. I didn’t intend to hurt anybody.”

Although lawyers hinted that a rivalry among families on the block may have contributed to the attack, Wimes said the content and tone of the attack made it clear that civil rights laws had been violated.

“It’s clear to this court what the motivation for this was,” Wimes said.

U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said in a written statement that she was pleased with the stern sentences.

“Today’s tough sentences send a strong message that racially motivated violence and threats will not be tolerated in our community,” Dickinson said. “No American should feel unwelcome or unsafe in any neighborhood because of their race or color.”

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.

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