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Pair will go to prison for 2008 Medford hate crime

(Updated, 4 p.m.) A judge in Eugene sentenced two Medford men to federal prison today for burning "KKK" and the shape of a cross on the lawn of a mixed-race Medford couple in May 2008.

Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Gary Moss, 37, to 41 months and Devan Klausegger, 30, to 51 months.

The two, both white, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to deprive individuals of civil rights related to fair housing. They also must serve three years probation and pay restitution of $3,107.

Karen Immergut, U.S. Attorney for Oregon, said it is not clear what if any ties the two had to hate groups but that at the sentencing hearing there was testimony that Moss' "100 percent peckerwood" tattoo could be linked to white supremacist groups in prisons.

The two had poured flammable liquid on the lawn near the house of Jonathan and Sol Whyte with the couple and their two small daughters inside. According to plea agreements, Klausegger handed Moss fireworks, which Moss used to ignite the fluid.

A neighbor put out the flames with a garden hose. Both men said they wanted the family to move.

Letters to Judge Aiken by Moss and his wife Melissa describe a dedicated but frustrated family man overwhelmed by events around him.

Immergut said the sentences were what the government sought and that both men waived appeal under a plea bargain.

"Generally I believe human beings are kind and generous but in this case I think that veil has been pierced," Aiken said at sentencing. "No one deserves this, especially kids."

Aiken said the victims would bear the impact of the crime for life.

The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center lists a 54 percent increase in active hate groups in the country, from 602 to 926, between 2000 and 2008, although many researchers report no corresponding jump in actual hate crimes.

Two such groups, Volksfront and the National Socialist Movement, have small operations in Oregon.

The law center cites unemployment, illegal immigration and the election of Barack Obama as possible reasons for the growth in such groups.

Moss wrote to Aiken that at age 36 he lost his construction job and was at the bottom of the stack in a new career.

He wrote he was "truly sorry for the fear and any problums I have caused Mr. & Mrs. Whyte" and denied being a racist.

"I made a huge mistake trying to drown my fears in a can of beer," he wrote.

— The Associated Press