10/19/08 — Guilty plea results in probation for cross burner

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Guilty plea results in probation for cross burner

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 19, 2008 3:00 AM

A Dudley man pleaded guilty in Wayne Superior Court to burning a makeshift wooden cross in the driveway of an interracial couple with whom he was feuding.

Dixon R. Steward, 38, was sentenced to supervised probation, with a suspended sentence of 6 to 8 months.

That means if Steward violates the terms of probation for the offense, charged as a Class I, Level III felony, Steward could serve that prison sentence.

As with all convicted felons, Steward must submit to a DNA swab for authorities' records, and Judge John E. Nobles Jr. also ordered no contact with victims Tangie Wesley and Gerald Buchanan, according to court minutes.

The judge also ordered a 24-month period of supervised probation and court costs of $406.

Buchanan said he woke up early the morning of July 19 to find a wooden cross, fashioned out of common lumber, propped up in a cinder block and on fire outside his children's bedroom window.

Steward was initially charged with a misdemeanor and freed on $500 bond, which led to more arguments in the neighborhood, neighbors and law enforcement officers said.

Later, the prosecutor's office discovered, then informed the Sheriff's Office, that burning a cross as an act of intimidation was actually a Class I felony under state law, Sheriff's Office Capt. Tom Effler has said.