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2 men accused of targeting Arkansas interracial couple

Two men accused of targeting an interracial couple in rural northern Arkansas with a molotov cocktail appeared in federal court Thursday after authorities arrested them the day before.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Authorities say the two men, Jason Barnwell, 37, and Gary Dodson, 32, are admitted white supremacists who targeted the married couple partly because of race.

They face charges of conspiracy to violate the couple's civil rights, interfering with the couple's housing rights, using a fire to commit a felony and possession of an unregistered destructive device.

In court Thursday, Dodson stared straight ahead at the judge as the charges were read. Barnwell stood mainly silent, shaking his head at the judge's questions. They are being held detention hearings next week.

Attorneys for both men declined to comment.

The married couple, a black man and a white woman, live in the tiny Arkansas town of Hardy. They were not injured in Jan. 14 incident.

Hardy, with a population of about 770, sits near the Missouri border and is a tourist hub off the interstate where thousands of strangers pass through during the summer months.

Police Chief Ernie Rose said the mostly white town isn't the kind of place where race-related crimes happen.

According to the affidavit, Barnwell, Dobson and some others went over to the couple's house after a night of drinking. Dobson drove the car to and from the couple's home, the affidavit says, although he did not actually throw a molotov cocktail.

According to the affidavit, Barnwell is a "self-professed 'Skinhead"' and Dodson has the word "Racist" tattooed on his stomach, swastikas on his head, and an "88" - standing for "HH" or "Heil, Hitler" - on his throat.

Others who were in the car with Barnwell and Dobson have not been charged.

Barnwell told the others they were going to visit a black man who disrespected the woman he lives with, according to a witness account described in an affidavit. Before going to the couple's trailer, Dobson stopped at a gas station and bought the gas for the molotov cocktail, the affidavit says.

After the friends arrived at the couple's home, Dobson stayed in the car, while everyone else got out, the court document says.

Barnwell and the others made two or three molotov cocktails out of beer bottles, gas and a rag, the affidavit said. One man ran up to the house and threw it through the window and into the trailer, the affidavit said. Barnwell stayed close to the car and lobbed his from there, the document says.

Drapes and blinds around a broken window caught fire, but the couple were able to put out the blaze and called 911, the court document says.

At one point, the husband came out of the trailer and started yelling, prompting Barnwell to tell the man to go back where he came from and finish his statement with a racial slur, according to the document.

If convicted, Barnwell and Dodson could face up to 40 years in prison.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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