Friday, July 23, 2004

Cross- burning triggers response



By Brenna R. Kelly
Enquirer staff writer

When Anne Schwartz heard about the cross-burning in her hometown of Burlington, she was furious.

But when she learned the 18-year-old accused in the hate crime was a fellow student at Conner High School, she decided to do something.

"You know those billboards about drugs (that say) 'Not in my neighborhood'? That's how I felt about it," said Schwartz, 18, who graduated from Conner this year.

Today in Covington, Schwartz and several friends plan to gather signatures on a petition calling for tougher hate-crime laws in Kentucky and urging schools to teach students about modern bigotry.

She's also started an online petition that had 30 signatures Thursday afternoon.

Students learn about the civil-rights movement in history class, she said, but they don't learn about modern hate groups or the effects of racism today.

She plans to send the petitions to local and state lawmakers.

State prosecutors have decided to turn the Burlington case over to federal authorities because of Kentucky's weak hate-crime laws.

The state's hate-crime law doesn't allow for an increased penalty other than in decisions about probation or parole.

Matthew Scudder, 18, of Burlington, and Jimmy D. Foster, 19, of Independence were charged July 16 with conspiracy to violate civil rights.

Federal prosecutors say Scudder and a juvenile built a 3-foot cross and set it on fire in the yard of Frederick Mahone's Rosetta Drive home July 2. The next night, the pair was joined by at least two others, including Foster. Scudder and at least one juvenile tossed bricks through the windows of Mahone's family car and yelled racial epithets, authorities said.

Schwartz said she was shocked to hear that Scudder, whom she remembered at Conner High School with spiky hair and a fondness for punk music, was one of the accused. "We didn't really expect that to be his thing," she said. "He was trying to be the alternative kid."

Schwartz said she and her friends decided to try to unite people against hate crimes so that everyone will know it's not accepted in Boone County.

"We don't want this to be the idea of cool in our hometown," she said.

People will be gathering signatures today in MainStrasse Village at 4 p.m. To sign the petition go to www.petitiononline.com/859nohte/petition.html

E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com




TOP STORIES
How do you move a 109-ton fountain?
Brent Spence project could get more money
Educators swap vacations for levy campaigns
Families find vindication in 9-11 report
Consortium rallies suburbs
For sale: 'Like new' 4br, 3ba, lead gone!

IN THE TRISTATE
Boy, 5, suspect in death of baby
Butler Co. gets a freebie
HUD secretary encouraging on English Woods
Fairfield school levy gets a boost
Prosecutor unswayed by Innocence Project
Middletown fills council vacancy
Consultant bonuses criticized
Senate Democrats block votes on judges
Panel offers other uses for empty nursing beds
RiverTrek offers teens outdoors 'rite of passage'
Overnight rainstorm cuts power to 25,000
Task force traces trail of narcotics
Public safety briefs
Neighbors briefs
Local news briefs

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Downs: Bar-goers get together to watch TV
Good Things Happening

LIVES REMEMBERED
Jean Pierre Pineton, marquis, dies at 101

KENTUCKY STORIES
Controversial bin Laden stickers taken off Web site
Acid fumes spur closures
China peculiar topic in 67th
Cross- burning suspect in court
Dig this disk
Candidate's daughter quits state job
Principal hired despite pending charge
Kentucky's Human Rights director quits
Cross- burning triggers response
Northern Kentucky news briefs
Villa Hills chief isn't leaving
Man with gun robs Florence Arby's
5 robberies might be linked
Kentucky news briefs