Feds Indict Teen for 'Threatening' Noose

Jeremiah Munsen faces a federal hate crime charge for disrupting Jena rally.

ByABC News
February 12, 2009, 12:28 PM

Jan. 24, 2008— -- 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.