Hate Crime Prompts Heavy Penalty

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A Pike County judge has ordered an eastern Kentucky man accused of setting fire to the apartment of three black students in 2005 to pay more than $130,000 in civil penalties.

Bobby Gibson Jr., of Shelbiana was cleared of criminal charges in 2005 after an all-white jury in found him not guilty.

However, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights pursued the case on civil charges of violating state and federal fair housing laws by intimidating the three Pikeville College students.

Circuit Judge Steven Combs found Gibson guilty of setting fire to a mason jar in attempts of burning the home on March 12, 2005.

Quintin Collins, 22, of Wando, S.C.; Michael Shepperd, 22, of Ellensboro, N.C.; and Kurtis Ellison, 21, of Chicago, smelled smoke on Feb. 12, 2005 and discovered the fire before it got out of control. They put it out themselves and immediately moved back into campus housing at Pikeville College.

Combs, in his ruling Thursday, ordered Gibson to $80,000 in damages to the students, $40,000 to the state and $11,850 in legal fees.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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