Lawrence man sentenced in federal court for racially motivated threats against neighbor

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The Department of Justice seal is seen on a lectern ahead of a press conference announcing efforts against computer hacking and extortion at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC on November 28, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Monday the sentencing of an Indiana man for making racially motivated threats against his Black neighbor.

DOJ said Shepherd Hoehn, 51, was sentenced Friday in federal court to 46 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for the offenses.

“Mr. Hoehn was held responsible for his vile conduct,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John E. Childress of the Southern District of Indiana. “We are a diverse nation, bound together by shared values and beliefs. We are also a nation of laws. Those like Mr. Hoehn who would betray our shared values and beliefs through behavior such as this rightly suffer the penalties our laws prescribe.” 

Hoehn pleaded guilty to charges of violation of the criminal provision of the Fair Housing Act and for unlawfully possessing firearms on February 12.

Court documents and statements made during the June 18 hearing explained that Hoehn’s neighbor removed a tree from his property.

Hoehn then became angry and took several steps to threaten, intimidate and interfere with his neighbor and the construction workers, according to court documents.

As previously reported, authorities said Hoehn “created and displayed a swastika on a fence facing the man’s property; placed and burned a cross above the fence line facing the man’s property; created and displayed a large sign next to the swastika containing a variety of anti-Black racial slurs; visibly displayed a machete near the sign; and loudly played the song “Dixie” on repeat.”

The FBI executed a federal search warrant at Hoehn’s home on July 1, 2020 and found several firearms and drug paraphernalia.

“Every person in the United States has the right to live in their home free from the threat of violence based on race,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The federal government will not tolerate, and will prosecute to the fullest extent the law allows, the sort of race-based threat that this defendant engaged in. We will continue fighting against racially motivated conduct, too often used to drive people from their homes and their communities.”

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