Florida man faces jail term and fines for intimidating Black family trying to buy home

David Broome, a Florida man, was recently found guilty of three counts of civil rights violations under the Fair Housing Act against a Black couple, a white alarm systems salesman, and two Black FBI agents. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison and fi ned $3,000 on December 3, 1996.

According to the US Attorney's office in Tampa, the first incident of intimidation occurred in August 1994. Clarissa and Alonzo Watkins, a Black couple, took their children to the site where their new home was being constructed. Broome, who would have been the Watkins' next-door neighbor, saw the Watkins family enter the site and approached them. "I don't like niggers," he said. "If you move into this house I'm going to make your life a living hell."

Alonzo Watkins, a minister, tried to calm Broome down. When Alonzo mentioned that he was a minister, Broome told him that he would need a lot more than God "when I get through with you." The Watkins family quickly left the construction site.

Several weeks later, a second incident occurred between Broome and Robert Lee, a white alarm systems salesman. Lee arrived at the construction site just as the Watkins family was leaving. Broome acted as if he was going to attack Lee with a gas-powered weed cutter. He brandished the cutter in a threatening way and used it to pelt Lee with rocks and dirt. One of the rocks broke a lens in Lee's glasses, according to testimony.

After the second confrontation, the Watkins family met with their home builder and discussed the situation. The Watkins family explained that they could not live in a house where they would be constantly intimidated. The home builder released the family from their contract and contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Broome's third and final act of racial intimidation occurred in January 1995. This time, his actions were caught on tape by two Black FBI agents who were posing as prospective home buyers. The tape that the agents made showed Broome waving a Confederate flag and screaming racial epithets at the agents. When the agents asked him why he was doing those things, Broome replied, "I like to cause f- - - ing trouble."

At his trial on the charges, Broome admitted that he did use racial epithets in the presence of the Watkins family, but he denied threatening them and denied threatening Lee with his weed cutter. Broome said that he was only exercising his right to free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.