Florida Black Man Arrested For Cross Burning on His Own Land

LB Williams is the latest defendant in a criminal case of cross burning. What is a bit curious is that Williams is a black man charged with the crime in Panama City.

Police believe that Williams wanted to keep his wife from leaving him after seven years. Donna Williams is white and did say it was a bit strange when she found the burning cross on the driveway with a note that she described as “They were watching us, I assumed me and the kids, and that I better not leave that [N-word].” The note was signed “KKK.” Police noted that who ever left the cross clearly did not want to damage the grass — a level of concern not common among racists. Then there was the uncommon concern of the KKK in preserving mixed marriages.

Cross burning cases remain controversial on a constitutional basis for many. I have serious first amendment problems with the use of this criminal law against people who burn crosses on private property as in the Black v. Virginia. In that case, the statute (upheld by the Court) read:

It shall be unlawful for any person or persons, with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons, to burn, or cause to be burned, a cross on the property of another, a highway or other public place. Any person who shall violate any provision of this section shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.

Any such burning of a cross shall be prima facie evidence of an intent to intimidate a person or group of persons.

Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-423 (Michie 1996).

Here there was an intent to intimidate or frighten, though it was short-lived given the absurd note. Below is the review of the statute in Florida.

Section 876.18 prohibits the placing of a flaming cross on the property of another without written permission:

876.18 Placing burning or flaming cross on property of another. — It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to place or cause to be placed on the property of another in the state a burning or flaming cross or any manner of exhibit in which a burning or flaming cross, real or simulated, is a whole or part without first obtaining written permission of the owner or occupier of the premises to so do. Any person who violates this section commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

The law suggests that burning crosses are allowed with permission, which helps address the free speech issues.

This case presents the rather novel issue, if this is the still relevant statute, that he is presumably one of the owners of the property. He had his own permission, of course, but not that of his wife. I expect none of this will matter with a plea bargain to the charges. I would hope that there would be an element of mercy exercised in the case for a stupid but not malicious act.

Here is the earlier decision: op-84013

Source: New Herald

11 thoughts on “Florida Black Man Arrested For Cross Burning on His Own Land

  1. Obviously his intent was to frighten and intimidate his victim so, yes, he should be charged under this statute.

    I don’t buy that this was not a malicious act; he intended to cause real anxiety an fear in his wife. It is hinting that their kids are in danger if she leaves him. How is that different than him telling her “I’ll kill the kids if you leave me!”?

    But what a moron! This would be the first time in recorded history that the KKK came out demanding miscegenation! She would have to be an even bigger doofus to have thought it came from anyone but him.

  2. How can this be “not malicious,” when his intent was to put his wife in fear for her life? While his motivation wasn’t racial, he clearly meant to intimidate her.

  3. Dredd, I just LOVED that comment.

    But I agree he did it (if he is guilty) to intimidate his wife. But I think, in spite of that (which is bad spousal behavior and wrongful in general), that he should not have been charged for doing it on the “property of another,” if he was part owner of his house.

    Weird bunch.

    But they can take out their weirdness in the courts of chancery for the next 30 or more years, why get into the criminal court over this one? Seems like a waste of resources.

  4. The law does not apply to him since he owns the land. If you try to extend the law in an equitable manner, it is clear that he as owner approves of the placement, and if you claim that the approval is not in writing, remember that you are extending the law to cover a case not contemplated, and the purpose of the requirement that it be in writing is to avoid forcing judge or jury to inquire as to the actuality of the permission.

    He may be guilty of breaking other laws, but not this one.

  5. to Martingugino,

    Yes, that’s what I thought.
    It’s like somebody destroying his or her own property to spite a spouse who would otherwise have taken it: not nice but not illegal.
    The judges can go crazy on this stuff. I saw a state court judge in Fairfax, VA divide property found on two spouses’ lists right down to cotton kitchen towels and, notably, “Salt shaker to wife, pepper shaker to husband. So ordered.”

  6. Slap him with a fine and be done with it already. No wonder she was planning to leave him. He needs his head examined. Why would the KKK tell her not to leave him. It is obvious that he was desperate and willing to do anything (short of damaging the grass) to stop her from leaving him. Malicious? Maybe or maybe not. Crazy, you bet.

  7. He seems to have met the letter of the law for the purpose of intimidation but the probable intent of the law (a hate crime?) is lacking. The law seems to be misapplied but the wife should get an order of protection against the hubby, he doesn’t seem to be thinking clearly.

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