2011-09-29 / Local & State

Western Pa. Man To Be Sentenced For Cross-burning

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A third western Pennsylvania man is scheduled for sentencing for burning a cross at the home of a black foster child living with a white family in rural western Pennsylvania.

Michael Bracken, 23, of Bolivar, pleaded guilty in May to a charge of conspiring to deny the constitutional rights of Shaq Howard, who was then 16. Bracken is scheduled Monday to become the third man sentenced in the case by a federal judge in Pittsburgh. Bracken’s co-defendants have already been sentenced to 18 months and one year, respectively, in federal prison.

The men acknowledged burning a 6-foot-tall cross in the yard of Joe Walbeck and his family in November 2009. Howard was the first black foster child of more than 15 taken in by the Walbecks, who live in West Wheatfield Township, about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh.

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