Damages awarded to victims in Ohio and Mississippi racial intimidation cases

In Cleveland, Ohio, Brad Brandenburg and his parents were ordered to pay more than $10,000 in property damage, emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney's fees for throwing a firebomb onto a Black family's front porch.

In October 1994, a group of white teenagers, including Brad Brandenburg, made a Molotov Cocktail by putting rubbing alcohol in a glass bottle with a soaked rag as a wick. Eddie and Grace Byrd, a middle-aged Black couple, claim that Brandenburg tossed the bomb onto their front porch. The porch caught fire and was damaged. The Byrds, their daughter, and their grandchildren were all home during the attack.

Police arrested Brandenburg for arson. He was tried in juvenile court and spent more than six months in a juvenile facility. The Byrds claim that the firebombing was not the first time that Brandenburg had tried to intimidate them. They claim that Brandenburg had vandalized their home several times and had used racial epithets in their presence.

US District Judge Kathleen O'Malley heard evidence on the Byrds' civil rights claims and awarded damages in the case. Although Brandenburg is a minor and has no assets, under an Ohio law, his parents can also be liable for any property damage judgments against him.

Since the firebombing incident took place, the Grace Byrd has been unable to stay at home by herself. The Byrds have a family member standing guard at their home 24 hours a day. Grace Byrd has been hospitalized several times since the incident and was not able to appear in court. Eddie Byrd now keeps a gun in his home for protection. The Byrds' daughter also testified that the family feels that they can no longer have holiday meals at their home. The incident has become "the focus of my mother's life," she said.

The Byrds were represented in the case by Edward Kramer and Diane Citrino of the Cleveland-based Housing Advocates.

Although they received a $2,000 settlement, Dorothy and J.R. Jorden still do not return to the town where Danny Wayne Skaggs threw rocks at them and burned a cross in their yard.

In September 1991, the Jordens, who are Black, and their nephew moved into a mobile home in Eudora, Mississippi. For a while, the Jordens lived peacefully with their neighbors. On May 3, 1992, however, the Jordens found the smouldering remains of a burnt cross in their front yard. On May 16, they were awakened at 2 a.m. by the sounds of rocks being thrown at their home. The Jordens saw a red Ford Tempo speeding away from their home. The police identified it as Skaggs's car. That same month, Skaggs returned with James Benny Stacks and burned another cross in the Jordens' front yard.

Police apprehended both Skaggs and Stacks. Skaggs admitted that he threw rocks at the Jordens' home and that he and Stacks had built the crosses and burned them in the Jordens' front yard. Both Skaggs and Stacks were convicted of criminal violations associated with the cross-burning. Although Skaggs and Stacks both face jail terms, the Jordens felt they could no longer live in Eudora. They moved to Tennessee.