Trio enter guilty pleas in civil rights intimidation case - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Trio plead guilty to civil rights intimidation; only one goes directly to jail


Three young men have admitted to violating federal civil rights laws by throwing fireworks and shouting racial slurs at black residents of Chattanooga's East Lake Court public housing project this past summer.

They'll be sentenced in April. But only one will have to wait out that court appearance in jail.

In U.S. District Court Friday, 27-year-old James Smiley and 21-year-olds Colton Partin and Kyle Montgomery pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to intimidate African-Americans and deprive them of their rights to safe and secure housing.

Specifically, they've conceded that they drove to East Lake July 9 and threw or launched fireworks toward more than half a dozen residents.

A Housing Authority surveillance camera recorded part of the incident, including one pyrotechnic explosive that broke a window in a bedroom where a woman and child were sleeping, according to United States Attorney Bill Killian.

"These were not firecrackers," Killian says. "They were designed to explode in air. Some of them were the size of my fist."

"It is only by God's grace that death or serious injury did not result," FBI Special Agent Rick Lambert says.

Had someone been injured, the trio could have faced more than 15 years in prison, prosecutors say.

As it is, their guilty pleas carry a penalty range of 0-10 years in prison, $250,000 fines, 3 years' probation, restitution to victims, and special assessment fees.

"It is a crime of violence," Partin's attorney Lee Davis says. "But there are exceptional and extraordinary circumstances by which someone can be released."

All three argued that they need to be out of jail so that they may care for, or support, members of their immediate families. If not physically, or financially, then emotionally.

Davis succeeded in arguing that jail would make it impossible for Partin to continue counseling sessions for anxiety, or to care for his injured father at home while his mother is on the road as a long-haul trucker

"What the court said is that the totality of the circumstances, he had some extraordinary circumstances which the court found were adequate to release him," Davis says.

Smiley also is free, to be 'emotionally available' for his sister and grandmother, and to help care for and run the business of, the ailing wife of his attorney.

"He's a family member," attorney Robin Flores says. "I made that very clear to the court even though I'm not blood kin to him, he's a family member."

Smiley and Partin each had to post $30,000 bonds, and sign documents promising to refrain from drinking alcohol, driving into East Lake Courts, or committing even a minor traffic infraction. Violations could land them in jail.

But U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Susan Lee would not buy Montgomery's argument that he needs to be there for his two year old daughter.

Confusion as to who served as the little girl's primary caregiver prompted Lee to carry over Montgomery's case into the afternoon, so that his attorney and court officials could confer with the girl's mother and the maternal and paternal grandparents.

"Both sets of grandparents have said this baby is their children's to raise," attorney Andrea L. Cribben-Acosta tells the court. "They're there for her (the child) emotionally, but not financially, or as caregivers. Only as a last resort."

Judge Lee ruled that Montgomery hadn't made a compelling case to remain out of jail, after pre-trial investigators revealed that his daughter's mother had told them Montgomery cares for his daughter only when daycare or other options aren't available.

Montgomery's parents left court with only his navy blue dress blazer, his belt, and his necktie.

They, and other immediate family will be allowed to visit him in custody, whether in Silverdale, or the detention centers in Hamilton or Bradley Counties, according to prosecutor Chris Poole.

"Whichever facility is deemed most secure and practical to hold him," Poole says.




(WRCB) – Three men have pleaded guilty to civil rights violations in federal court.

Colton Partin, James D. Smiley and Kyle Montgomery each entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to intimidate African Americans.

Last July, the three men were driving in through East Lake, throwing fireworks out the window of the vehicle and yelling racial slurs.

Sentencing for the trio is scheduled for April.

Attorneys for Colton Partin and James Smiley were able to arrange for their clients to be released from jail until sentencing, however Kyle Montgomery will remain custody.

There is no minimum sentence for the crime; however conspiracy to intimidate African Americans carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, 3 years of probation, $250,000 in fines, restitution for the victims and any special or court fees.

The judge has to option to sentence the men to any or all of the punishments.




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