A Port Richey, Florida man pleaded guilty Friday to a 2012 cross burning on his neighbor's front lawn. The Department of Justice says Thomas Herris Sigler, 45, wanted to force his black neighbor from his home and intimidate him.
Sigler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with others to threaten, intimidate and interfere with an interracial couple's enjoyment of their housing rights. U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley called it sad that crosses were being burned in front yards in the 21st century.
"Cross burning remains a vicious symbol of hatred," he said in 2016 when Sigler's co-conspirator was sentenced after pleading guilty to similar charge.
Court documents show in October 2012, Sigler and his co-conspirator, Pascual Carlos Pietri, were living on Seward Drive in a mostly white community. During a Halloween party, Sigler and Pietri reportedly decided to burn a cross after an interracial couple moved in next door.
Pietri reportedly heard neighbors on Seward Dr. use racial slurs and make derogatory statements about black people in general and specifically about their new black neighbor.
At the party, several residents of the street got wood and used tools from the party to build the cross and someone got a canister of gasoline, the Justice Department says. Pietri and Sigler reportedly carried the cross to the couple's front yard, doused it in gasoline and set it on fire to intimidate the couple.
They leaned the thing against their mail box. This came after Sigler reportedly made several racist comments toward their new black neighbor. On one occasion, the Justice Department says, Sigler even attacked the black neighbor.
Pietri began serving a 37-month sentence in March of 2016 for his hand in the cross burning. Sigler's sentencing date has not been released. A third person is also charged in the cross burning, William A. Dennis, 56.
The FBI investigated the case.