The Western District of Arkansas U.S. Attorney’s Office this week secured the first conviction at trial of an individual under a 2009 law designed to give the federal government more tools to fight hate crimes, putting a spotlight on the office’s new U.S. Attorney.
William Conner Eldridge Jr., whom the Senate confirmed in December, heads one of the smallest U.S. Attorneys’ offices in terms of caseload.
A federal jury convicted Frankie Maybee under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for injuring and threatening five Hispanic men. Co-defendant Sean Popejoy has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the incident.
Popejoy allegedly yelled racial epithets at the men and brandished a tire wrench at them from the window of a truck that Maybee drove to chase after the men who were driving away from a gas station. Maybee rammed his truck into the men’s car several times causing the vehicle to crash into a tree and ignite.
The Hispanic men were injured in the crash. One man had life-threatening injuries.
“We thank the jury for their careful consideration, and for their verdict. It is horrific that acts of violence are committed against complete strangers because of their race,” Eldridge said in a statement. He added: “In the Western District of Arkansas, we will continue to prosecute acts of violence that are motivated by hatred of another’s race.”