By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
A Federal Grand Jury investigating a 2009 cross burning in Ozark, Alabama announced another conviction. The former Secretary of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Chapter in Ozark, Pamela Morris, pled guilty today to committing perjury during the grand jury’s investigation into the racially motivated cross-burning in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
Morris, 46, admitted in plea documents that on Feb. 20, 2013; she lied to a Federal Grand Jury looking into a cross-burning. On May 8, 2009 her son Steven Joshua Dinkle (the leader of the local KKK chapter) and Thomas Smith (also an Ozark KKK member) burned a six-foot tall cross at the entrance to an African-American neighborhood in Ozark in order to threaten and intimidate the residents.
In her 2013 sworn testimony before the grand jury, Morris denied being the Secretary of the KKK Chapter in Ozark and denied having any involvement with the KKK.
In her guilty plea, Morris admitted that she had been an officer of the KKK and that her testimony denying any connection to the organization was false. She further acknowledged that she knew that Dinkle had committed the cross burning. Additionally Morris admitted that she testified falsely in order to prevent the grand jury from learning about other KKK members who had information relevant to the investigation.
Morris faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Dinkle pleaded guilty on Feb. 3, 2014, to hate crime and obstruction of justice charges related to the cross burning. On May 15, 2014, he was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison.
Steven Joshua Dinkle, 28, is the former Exalted Cyclops of the Ozark, Ala., chapter of the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). According to documents filed with the court, Dinkle and one of his KKK recruits, Thomas Windell Smith, met at Dinkle’s home on May 8, 2009, and decided to burn a cross in a local African-American neighborhood.
Then, Grand Cyclops Dinkle constructed a wooden cross about six feet tall, wrapped jeans and a towel around it to make it more flammable and loaded it into Smith’s truck. Around 8:00 p.m., Dinkle and Smith drove to an African-American neighborhood in Ozark. Dinkle unloaded the cross at the entrance to the community and dug a hole in the ground, then poured fuel on the cross, stood it up in the hole in view of several houses and set it on fire. Dinkle and Smith then drove away.
Dinkle denied his involvement in the incident and stated that he had resigned his office and withdrawn from the KKK months before the cross burning when questioned by local authorities and repeated those denials to FBI agent. Dinkle told a special agent that he had been at home with his girlfriend when the cross burning occurred. Dinkle also denied knowing his superiors in the KKK at the time of the cross burning.
During his plea hearing, Dinkle admitted that in burning the cross, he intended to scare and intimidate residents of the African-American community by threatening the use of force against them. He further admitted that he burned the cross because of the victims’ race and color and because they were occupying homes in that area.
Dinkle pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate housing rights, one count of criminal interference with the right to fair housing and two counts of obstruction of justice.
Dinkle’s co-conspirator, Smith, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate housing rights in December 2013.
U.S. Attorney General George L. Beck Jr. said, “ As a society we hope to never see this type of hate,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. for the Middle District of Alabama. “We will continue to prosecute those that commit these horrible acts of hate to the fullest extent of the law.”
This case was investigated by the FBI, with the assistance of the Dale County Sheriff’s Office and the Ozark Police Department.