A judge sentenced Frankie Maybee, 20, and Sean Popejoy, 19, both of Green Forest, Arkansas, for their roles in committing federal hate crimes. They are the first defendants to be sentenced under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, enacted in October 2009.
“This was a horrible, horrible crime,” Conner Eldridge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas said. Investigators say last June the crime started at a Red X gas station in Alpena, Arkansas. Five Hispanic men filled up their gas tank. Unprovoked, investigators say Maybee and Popejoy shouted racial slurs telling the men to “go back to Mexico” but it didn't stop there. "The defendants at that point decided to run down the victims with their truck. Defendant Maybee drove the truck while defendant Popejoy leaned out the window and waved a tire iron," Eldridge said. For five miles investigators say the men chased the group of Hispanic men. "Executing a pit maneuver and causing the car to go across the opposite line of traffic and run into a tree, ultimately leaving the road igniting into flames," Eldridge said.
Maybee’s mother, Gloria Maybee, left the sentencing in tears. "My son is going to prison for 11 years," Maybee said while saying he is innocent. "I don't think he was the one who was driving," Maybee said. Eldridge says the facts of the case stand for themselves. He says the facts convinced not only a grand jury to charge Maybee but a second 12 member jury to convict him of the crime. “I did not raise my kids to be hateful to anybody as in race, color, religion or anything," Maybee said.
Her son told the judge he was only guilty of “being drunk” and “messing around.” Maybee told the judge he “hung out with many Hispanics” and “dated and was even engaged to a Hispanic girl.” The judge quoted witnesses from the trial that said Maybee called the victims “beaners” and “spics.”
Maybee was sentenced Wednesday to 135 months or about 11 years and three months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. Popejoy, who testified against Maybee, was sentenced yesterday to 48 months or four years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. Maybee and Popejoy were also sentenced to pay $5,440 in restitution to the victims.
Maybee was convicted on May 19, 2011, by a federal jury of five counts of committing a federal hate crime and one count of conspiring to commit a federal hate crime. Popejoy pleaded guilty on May 16, 2011, to one count of committing a federal hate crime and one count of conspiring to commit a federal hate crime.
“This case sends a message that if acts of violence are committed because of who somebody is or because of what they look like they will be prosecuted,” Eldridge said.
Edited News Release from Department of Justice: Evidence presented at trial established that in the early morning hours of June 20, 2010, Maybee and Popejoy targeted five Hispanic men who had pulled into a gas station parking lot. Though Maybee and Popejoy did not know the men and the five did not do or say anything to provoke them, Maybee and Popejoy yelled racial epithets at the men and told them to “go back to Mexico.” When the victims drove away, the co-conspirators pursued them in Maybee’s truck. When Maybee and Popejoy caught up to the victims, Popejoy leaned outside of the front passenger window and waived a tire wrench at the victims, and continued to threaten and hurl racial epithets at the victims. Maybee, driving his truck, rammed into the victims’ car repeatedly, causing the victims’ car to cross the opposite lane of traffic, go off the road, crash into a tree and ignite. The victims were badly injured and one of the victims sustained life threatening injuries.
“The facts of this case shock the conscience. Five men were almost killed for no reason other than the fact that they are Hispanic. The Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act allowed us to bring these men to justice in a way that we could not have done just a few years ago,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “These sentences send a clear message that the Justice Department will aggressively prosecute those who perpetrate violent acts of hate.”
“Acts of violence that occur simply because of how someone looks are horrific,” said Conner Eldridge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. “The five victims in this case were targeted because they are Hispanic. That is reprehensible. We thank the jury – 12 individuals from communities across Northern Arkansas - for their careful consideration of the evidence and for holding the defendants accountable for their actions. We hope that acts like this never occur. However, if they do, we will vigorously prosecute them.”
“Hate crimes have wide-ranging impact, as their perpetrators attack the victim and intimidate entire communities,” stated FBI Little Rock, Ark., Special Agent-in-Charge Valerie Parlave. “The FBI will continue to collaborate with our state and local partners to investigate and provide important training to address violent hate crimes that are bias motivated. We will also work with our community partners, such as the Arkansas Civil Rights Working Group, to develop strategies to address and reduce civil rights abuses.”
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Fayetteville, Ark., Division in cooperation with the Arkansas State Police Department and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward Chung and Cindy Chung of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra E. Jenner for the Western District of Arkansas.