Three men have been charged with burning a cross in the western Pennsylvania yard of a black teenager last year…
Federal officials charged Michael Bealonis, 18, and Kenneth Stiffey Jr., 20, both of Robinson, Pa., and Michael Bracken, 22, of Bolivar, Pa., with conspiracy to interfere with the housing rights of another, interfering with the housing rights of another, and using fire in the commission of a felony.
The teenager was not identified by federal officials or in the indictment issued Tuesday. But the boy’s guardian, Joe Walbeck, confirmed…that the charges related to a cross burning at their rural Bolivar home in November. Walbeck said the three men charged were white and that one of them lived just a few houses away…
Walbeck, who is white, said he and his wife took in 16-year-old Shaq Howard as a foster child about four years ago because he was having problems with his family. They live in a predominantly white community about an hour east of Pittsburgh and are now legal guardians of the boy.
The Walbecks have taken in about 16 foster children during the last six years at their home in West Wheatfield Township, Indiana County. They’ve had a couple of biracial foster children, but Shaq is their first black child.
Walbeck said Shaq wasn’t friends with the men charged, but he does know who they are.
“He never dreamt that they would do something like that to him,” Walbeck said of the 6-foot-tall cross he found charred on his lawn last year.
If convicted, all three could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison and fined up to $750,000.
Throw away the key!