US Attorney Ben Glassman says federal and local investigators are out to stop federal hate crimes like the one Samuel Whitt pleaded guilty to Wednesday.
“We have to make sure that these kinds of bias crimes, this violence fueled by hate, doesn't gain ground here in Ohio,” Glassman said after Whitt’s plea in federal court Downtown.
Whitt admitted he spray-painted swastikas and racist language on property owned by an interracial couple, Joe and Pat Jude, after they evicted him in the summer of 2016. He returned to the house a few months later for revenge.
Around Thanksgiving 2016, Whitt not only spray-painted the house with hate, he also admitted pouring concrete down pipes and trying to set the home on fire.
SEE the damage Whitt caused and hear homeowners tell how they moved past their shock and anger in this Jan. 3 report:
Glassman says federal and local investigators are focusing more attention on enforcing Fair Housing laws. Whitt pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime - Criminal Interference With the Right to Fair Housing - admitting he acted because Joe Jude is black and Pat Jude is white, and to damage their rental property.
A year ago, the 9 On Your Side I-Team confronted Cincinnati landlord John Klosterman, the target of an unrelated federal case.
Federal prosecutors accused Klosterman of violating the Fair Housing Act by trading rent or reductions in rent to women tenants in exchange for sex or the promise of sex. Klosterman has denied that. Since the case is a civil action, Klosterman won't face jail, but if he loses he could be forced to pay huge fines.
After the damage to their house, the Judes said they received thousands of dollars in donations to help them repair it. A GoFundMe page, no longer accepting donations, raised nearly $68,000.
Prosecutors agreed to a plea deal calling for Whitt to serve five years or less in prison. Whitt has been jailed for nearly two years because the judge believed Whitt was a threat to the community. Whitt had a criminal record of violence that includes four years in prison for aggravated robbery.
No date has been set for Whitt’s sentencing.