published Friday, April 13th, 2012

3 sentenced in racially motivated fireworks attack

Colton Partin, 22, of Apison, received six months of house arrest while James Smiley, 27, and Kyle Montgomery, 22, both of Chattanooga, got one year in prison. Each pleaded guilty to conspiracy against rights on Jan. 6.
Colton Partin, 22, of Apison, received six months of house arrest while James Smiley, 27, and Kyle Montgomery, 22, both of Chattanooga, got one year in prison. Each pleaded guilty to conspiracy against rights on Jan. 6.

Two of three white men sentenced Thursday in federal court for launching mortar-style fireworks on black public housing residents will serve one year in prison.

The third man, 22-year-old Colton Partin, of Apison, received six months of house arrest and 18 months of probation.

Partin pleaded guilty along with James Smiley, 27, and Kyle Montgomery, 22, both of Chattanooga, to a single charge of civil rights intimidation in January. Smiley and Montgomery also were sentenced to three years of probation following their prison time.

Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier told the men before sentencing that, although he'd received many letters on their behalf that characterized the episode as a "silly prank" or "youthful indiscretion," their actions showed that they "meant to harm people."

One of the five listed victims of the attacks, Angela Williams, 46, told the court Thursday that she still suffers anxiety attacks from the incident.

"The way that their faces were smiling so hard, I just couldn't get it out of my head," Williams said. "I had to come here today and see them face to face so they could see me face to face."

At the end of the hearing, after the men apologized for their actions, Williams again stood in the audience and said she would pray for them. She added, "I hope that this here turns your life around."

As part of their sentences, all three men must perform 300 hours of service to benefit both the black community and the community at large.

The trio originally faced state charges but those were dropped when the U.S. attorney's office filed federal charges.

Lee Davis, Partin's attorney, told the court the three men had a "one-for-all-and-all-for-one" pact the night they were released from jail to keep quiet about what happened. But Partin later went to prosecutors and explained that the event was not a drunken prank. He said they had targeted East Lake Courts public housing, knowing black residents would be outside between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. on July 9, 2011.

"It was because of his cooperation that the truth came out," Davis said in the hearing.

The men drove through the complex four times, on three occasions throwing fireworks. One of the fireworks shattered the first pane of a double-paned window on an apartment where a woman was asleep with her infant child and her boyfriend's adolescent siblings.

Many in the complex at first thought the sounds were gunfire, according to court testimony.

Smiley's attorney, Robin Flores, argued for probation during the hearing but said afterward that the sentencing could have been worse and he has no plans to appeal it.

All the defendants' attorneys characterized their clients' actions as "idiotic," "misguided" and "reprehensible."

None of the three men had significant criminal histories, which played a part in their sentences.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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