Feds Indict Teen for 'Threatening' Noose

It was one of the few blights reported by the organizers of a 20,000-person civil rights demonstration held last year in a Louisiana town at the center of a national race debate.

As a group of marchers waited for a bus to transport them from Alexandria, La., to Tennessee, a pickup truck allegedly cruised slowly by, a pair of nooses hanging from the back of the truck. Local police officers took notice and arrested the teen driver and his passenger.

Four months later, federal prosecutors have announced the indictment of Jeremiah Munsen, 18, on a federal hate crime, and civil rights conspiracy charges, for "his role in threatening and intimidating marchers" as they attempted to cross a state line.

Munsen and his 16-year-old passenger, who has not been identified by authorities, allegedly fashioned a pair of extension cords into nooses and discussed the Ku Klux Klan as they drove repeatedly past a group of marchers gathered at a bus stop, while they waited for Tennessee-bound transportation.

"It is a violation of federal law to intimidate, oppress, injure, or threaten people because of their race, and because people are exercising and enjoying rights guaranteed and protected by the laws and Constitution of the United States," U.S. Attorney Donald W. Washington said in a statement. "Our civil rights laws protect the civil rights of all Americans, and they remind us that we are all members of one particular race — the human race."

The charges against Munsen, who did not return a call by ABC News, will be prosecuted jointly by the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"I wish we had a charge in Louisiana for aggravated ignorance," an Alexandria police officer, involved in Munsen's original arrest, said at the time. "Because this is a classic case."

The symbol that, police say, Munsen used to menace black marchers, was the same one that sparked the original controversy that thrust Jena, La., into its uncomfortable national spotlight.

A group of black teenagers, who came to be known as the "Jena Six," were hit with attempted second-degree murder charges for the beating of a white classmate during a December fight between black and white students. During the fight, a white student was knocked unconcious and bloodied.

The beating followed an incident at Jena High School in 2006, when a black student asked the principal if black peers could sit beneath the shade of a tree where white students normally gathered. The principal said yes, but the next day, nooses had been hanged from the tree. Three students were suspended, but not criminally prosecuted.

Charges ultimately were dropped against five of the six, and later reduced for a final defendant. But the severity of the original charges generated intense scrutiny, with critics claiming a two-tiered Louisiana justice system for blacks and whites.

The climax of the backlash likely came on Sept. 20, when thousands of protestors from across the nation descended on Jena to march. The FBI watched carefully as the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton joined the largely peaceful protest.

While the charges against the Jena Six have been resolved in the courts, the whole episode continues to make the small Louisiana town a flashpoint.

On Monday, roughly 50 white supremacists gathered in Jena to demand severe prosecution of the Jena Six, and an end to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

They were met by about 100 counter-demonstrators, who shouted "No KKK." One member of the New Black Panther Party was arrested and charged with battery of a police officer, and resisting arrest after authorities forced 10 people away from a podium where one of the white supremacists was to speak.

If convicted, Munsen faces up to 11 years in prison, and a fine of up to $350,000.