Indiana Man Sentenced to 46 Months in Prison for Making Racially Motivated Threats Toward Black Neighbor and for Unlawfully Possessing Firearms

An Indiana man was sentenced Friday in federal court for making racially motivated threats to intimidate and interfere with his neighbor, who is Black, in violation of the criminal provision of the Fair Housing Act, and for unlawfully possessing firearms.

Shepherd Hoehn, 51, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson to 46 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for these offenses. Hoehn previously pleaded guilty to these charges on Feb. 12, 2021.

According to court documents and statements made during the hearing, on June 18, 2020, a construction crew began working at the direction of Hoehn’s neighbor to remove a tree from the neighbor’s property. Upon learning of the tree removal, Hoehn became angry and took several steps to threaten, intimidate and interfere with his neighbor and the construction workers. Specifically, Hoehn placed and burned a cross above the fence line facing his neighbor’s property; created and displayed a swastika on the outer side of his fence, facing his neighbor’s property; created and displayed a large sign containing a variety of anti-Black racial slurs next to the swastika; visibly displayed a machete near the sign with the racial slurs; loudly played the song “Dixie” on repeat; and threw eggs at his neighbor’s house. On July 1, 2020, the FBI executed of a federal search warrant at Hoehn’s home. During the search, several firearms and drug paraphernalia were located.

“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.”

“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.” 

“Incidents of harassment and intimidation such as this are intended to create fear and this sentence clearly shows targeting someone based on race, sexual identity or religious beliefs will not be tolerated,”  said Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan of the FBI Indianapolis Division. “Crimes motivated by bias will continue to be investigated by the FBI and our law enforcement partners, and perpetrators held responsible for their actions.”

This case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Lawrence Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Shepard of the Southern District of Indiana and Trial Attorney Katherine DeVar of the Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

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Author: June 21, 2021

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