Cortlandt cross burner back in jail; linked by authorities to hate groups, New York/October 6, 2009

White Plains - A convicted cross burner from Cortlandt was sent back to jail today for violating his probation, and authorities are now checking suspected ties to white supremacists and other hate groups.

Westchester prosecutors said 21-year-old Christopher Hudak, who burned a cross at the home of a Cortlandt family in 2007, posted such "vile and dangerous" messages on the Internet that he was considered a security threat when President Obama visited New York last month.

Hudak, who was serving five years' probation after spending six months in jail for the cross burning, has served just seven of his mandatory 1,000 hours of community service and has skipped anger-management and substance-abuse counseling sessions, prosecutors said.

Westchester County Judge Jeffrey A. Cohen ordered Hudak held on $250,000 bail and set a hearing on the case for Oct. 13.

"He hasn't even been close to compliance," the judge said. "To say the least, it's troubling."

Hudak and an accomplice, Ryan A. Martin, admitted to building a 4-foot wood cross and setting it ablaze on the lawn of Wesley and Clara Montague-Artope on Nov. 21, 2007 - the day before Thanksgiving.

They burned the cross - a symbol of racial terrorism and hatred associated with the Ku Klux Klan - after then-15-year-old Timothy Artope was involved in a fight earlier with Hudak's younger sister and another girl at Hendrick Hudson High School. Timothy Artope told police that the fight was provoked by the girls, and he hit Danielle Hudak after she used a racial slur.

Hudak and Martin pleaded guilty to three felonies, the top one a hate crime, and a misdemeanor arson count. Hudak also pleaded guilty to intimidating a witness.

Assistant District Attorney Heide Mason said Hudak was involved with white supremacists during his six months at the county jail. She said the FBI and U.S. Secret Service contacted county probation officers saying they linked Hudak to hate speech on social media sites and did not want him in Manhattan during the president's stay.

Hudak's new attorney, Randall Richards, said today was the first time he heard about the alleged links to hate groups, which he said were not in his client's probation report.

Martin, also 21, was sentenced to four weekends in jail and 300 hours of community service and has complied with the terms of his probation, according to the District Attorney's Office.

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