2 men plead guilty to burning cross

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Two men pleaded guilty Friday to a hate crime for setting a wooden cross on fire in front of a black family?s home in Cortlandt.

One of the defendants, Christopher Hudak, admitted he lit the match and put it to the 4-foot cross on the front lawn of Clara and Wes Atrope?s home last November. His friend, Ryan Martin, provided his truck. The defendants say they even drove to the home twice on the night of the incident to make sure they accomplished their mission.

The incident occurred after the Atrope's 15-year-old son, Timothy, got into a fight with Hudak's sister and another girl. The teen was later charged with assault.

Presiding Judge Jeffery Cohn called the hate crime severe and profound, and said it impacted the entire community.

During the hearing, Hudak addressed the Atrope family, saying that what he did was unjustifiable and that he was not in the right state of mind.

The Atropes, however, say they don?t feel Hudak was sincere.

Martin also issued a private and public apology for the hateful act. Still, the Atrope family feels as if they've been living out their own sentence for months.

?While they've been free on bail, my kids were concerned about sleeping in their own beds,? Clara Atrope says.

Both defendants are expected to be sentenced in October.

If convicted, Hudak is facing one to four years in state prison, although there is a chance he may get only six months and community service.

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