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Cross Burners’ Sentence Includes Prison, Papers On Civil Rights

March 16, 1991

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Three people who pleaded guilty to burning a cross on the lawn of a black family were sentenced Friday to prison and ordered to study the civil rights movement.

U.S. District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson said Lisa Pfettscher, Theresa Kling and Gary Ragan must watch a PBS documentary on the civil rights movement called ″Eyes on the Prize,″ read a companion book and write a 25-page paper on the topic.

In addition, Thompson, the first black to be appointed to the federal bench in New Jersey, ordered each of the defendants to write three 10-page papers on leaders of the civil rights movement.

The three defendants pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges in the burning of a three-foot cross last September on the Camden front lawn of Paulette McCormick. A week before, she and her two daughters had moved into a house in the city’s predominantly white Fairview section.

Ms. Pfettscher, 27, who is McCormick’s neighbor, and Ms. Kling, 31, of Maple Shade, enlisted Ragan, 20, of Maple Shade to torch the cross, authorities said.

Ragan was sentenced to 13 months in prison, three years probation, and will be required to receive treatment for alcohol abuse. Ms. Pfettscher was sentenced to nine months in prison, one month of home detention and two years probation. Ms. Kling was sentenced to nine months in prison, one month in a community-based confinement center and two years probation.

In addition, all three defendants were each fined $3,000 and will be required to perform community service.