Others hate crime victims

The Kentucky Post/March 28, 2003
By Jeanne Houck

Federal prosecutors say members of a black family driven out of their West Covington home by
white supremacists were not the only victims of the hate group, now behind bars awaiting sentencing in June on convictions of civil-rights violations. Devlin Burke and his mother, Kimberly Hill, used racial slurs and made threats -- once brandishing a machete -- against two other black families, a black man and an interracial couple in Peaselburg.

That's according to paperwork filed in U.S. District Court in Covington by Fred Stine, an assistant U.S. attorney, and Seth Rosenthal, a civil-rights attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

The 32-page trial brief -- filed just a week before the defendants entered their guilty pleas -- gives a harrowing account of how Burke, Hill and two others used harassment and violence to drive the family out of their home. It also shows for the first time how prosecutors planned to expand the case to include evidence of crimes against other victims.

Burke, Matthew Campbell and Jeffrey Henson pleaded guilty in February to felony civil-rights violations for conspiring between March 2001 and May 2002 to interfere with the housing rights of Gloria Powell and her teen-age children, Maurice Powell and DaVonya Powell.

Hill pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of using racial slurs and threatening the Powells.

The pleas came Feb. 7 -- three weeks after Stine and Rosenthal filed notice in court that they intended to present evidence about other victims at the trial, originally scheduled to begin Feb. 10.

The prosecutors argued that the information should be allowed, even though the charges only involved the Powells, to "counter Hill and Burke's anticipated defense that their conduct toward the Powell family was the product of a dispute between neighbors that had nothing to do with either race or intimidation."

The Northern Kentucky branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People met with Gloria Powell and Stine after learning about the court case, and intends to monitor it to its conclusion.

"These kinds of issues need to be taken very seriously,'' President Jerome Bowles said Thursday. "Whenever a hate crime or hatred is inflicted on any person or family in the community, law enforcement has to aggressively and quickly pursue it and enforce the laws to ensure these issues are discontinued and never happen again."

Bowles said that to date, the NAACP has been "satisfied with the action the U.S. attorney has taken."

The Powells and other victims targeted by Burke, Hill, Campbell and Henson had reason to take the threats seriously.

Burke is a convicted killer, having been found guilty of reckless homicide in Kenton County in 1997 and sentenced to five years in prison for stabbing his mother's boyfriend to death in a drunken brawl.

Hill and Campbell both had assault convictions on their criminal records before they, Burke and Henson were indicted last October on federal charges involving the Powells.

The defendants pleaded guilty a week after prosecutors filed a second set of papers that laid out the evidence in the Powell case. Stine and Rosenthal gave this account of events in their trial brief about the Powells' ordeal and their notice about evidence involving other victims:

The Powells moved to Locust Street, a narrow, block-long road with little room between the homes, in Peaselburg in the summer of 2000.

Hill and Burke settled into a home across the street early in spring 2001 and began a campaign of threats, racial slurs and vandalism that lasted until the Powells moved away just over a year later.

Burke and his white supremacist friends began gathering nightly at his home. Campbell and Henson, who lived elsewhere in Covington, frequently attended and, like Burke, espoused white supremacist beliefs and even had racist tattoos.

"They stayed out in the street, directly in front of the Powells' home and blared their violence-filled, racist music, saluted Hitler and shouted 'White power!'" prosecutors said.

One time Burke and other unidentified men -- one brandishing a gun -- chased two of Gloria Powell's nieces, shouting threats and racial slurs as the girls were leaving their aunt's home after a visit.

A Covington police officer and an FBI agent went to the home of Burke and Hill in April 2001 to warn them they would be in serious trouble if authorities could prove the numerous complaints of racial harassment and vandalism being made against them.

But things just worsened.

About a month later, Burke, Campbell and Henson beat Maurice Powell with bats or long wooden sticks after Burke and Campbell broke out the windows on the front of the Powells' home, according to court records. Powell had to be treated at a local hospital for contusions.

After a hysterical Gloria Powell dialed 911 to report the beating, a Covington police officer dispatched to the scene told Campbell he faced charges of assault and, possibly, committing a hate crime.

"Hitting 'em isn't a hate crime," Campbell said. "I haven't drug a (racial slur) behind my truck yet," he said in an apparent reference to the horrific murder of a black man beaten, chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to death in Jasper, Texas, in 1998.

"Yet?" the officer asked.

''Yeah, not yet," Campbell said.

Investigators eventually served a search warrant at the home of Burke and Hill and found Ku Klux Klan, rebel and Nazi flags hanging on the walls, CDs of hate music touting racial violence "and a raft of Klan literature denigrating African-Americans and preaching against race mixing."

In addition to the abuse heaped upon the Powell family, Hill, according to court records:

"Shouted racial slurs at a black family who lived around the corner from her three times in 1999 and 2000. One time she threatened to shoot them and another time Hill was threatening them with a knife when another neighbor took the weapon and forced her to go home.

"In March and April 2000, Hill shouted racial slurs and cursed a third black family, one that also lived on Locust Street.

"In 2001, Hill accosted a black man in the neighborhood with racial slurs, left the scene and returned wielding a machete. She left a second time and returned with Burke, who tried to provoke a fight with the black man.

"Hill stood outside the home of a black man and a white woman in her neighborhood in 2001 and shouted racial slurs Hill continued her tirade when the black man came out of his house. Burke showed up to join the confrontation, but a relative pulled him away.

Hill was arrested, as she, Burke, Campbell and Henson would be at various times on various charges related to all the black victims.

But getting put behind bars or visited by police and the FBI didn't seem to make much of an impression on them.

After police hauled Hill away for confronting the interracial couple, Burke began beating on the door of his and Hill's home with weapons in each hand, shouting "I'm going to kill a (expletive deleted) tonight.''

Burke, Campbell and Henson each face up to 10 years in prison when sentenced June 26. Hill faces up to two years.

Bowles, the president of the NAACP's Northern Kentucky branch, said he is sickened but not surprised by the actions of the white supremacists.

"We have these types of attitudes and behavior in the community," Bowles said, "and oftentimes they spring up and that makes us all aware that work must be done in the areas of championing human and civil rights.''

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