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Evening Shade man sentenced in August 2011 race crime in Hardy

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Jason Barnwell, 37, of Evening Shade, Ark., was sentenced Jan. 27 in Little Rock, for his involvement in firebombing the residence of an interracial couple near Hardy last year.

On Aug. 26, 2011, Barnwell pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the civil rights of the residents and using fire in the commission of that offense. Barnwell also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson sentenced Barnwell to 20 years in prison for the three counts against him.

During his plea, Barnwell admitted that, on the night of Jan. 14, 2011, he hosted a party where he and three other men, Jake Murphy, Dustin Hammond and Gary Dodson, devised a plan to firebomb the victims' house. The men then went to the victims' house in Hardy and, when they arrived, Barnwell, Murphy and Hammond constructed three Molotov cocktails and threw them at the house. The Molotov cocktails ignited and damaged the house; however, the victims were not injured in the incident and were able to quickly extinguish the flames, before reporting the incident to the Hardy Police Department and Sharp County Sheriff's Department.

Murphy and Hammond have already pleaded guilty to civil rights violations for their roles in the crime. Both defendants received sentences of 54 months, and will receive three years of supervised probation upon release.

In June 2011, Wendy Treybig, who co-hosted the party with Barnwell, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice. She was sentenced on Dec.13, 2011, to 21 months in prison, and three years of supervised probation. Gary Dodson pleaded guilty on Dec.7, 2011, and will be sentenced on April 6, 2011.

"This defendant not only committed acts of race-based violence, but recruited others to commit these hate-filled crimes as well. There is no place in our society for criminal acts such as these," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division in a press release. "The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute individuals who commit such atrocious acts."

During his sentencing, Barnwell expressed regret for years of living as a "devout racist." Barnwell said he has had a change of heart while working with the chaplains who regularly visit the Clinton County Jail, where Barnwell has been housed.

"If I could do anything to make it right with these people, I would," Barnwell tearfully told the judge. "I'm a better man than I was."

In addition to local police agencies, the case was investigated by the Little Rock Office of the FBI and the Little Rock Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, with assistance from the Arkansas State Police.

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