SOUTHLAND : Man Convicted of Cross Burning

<i> From Times staff and wire service reports </i>

A former tattoo artist was convicted in Santa Ana federal court today of burning a cross outside a black family’s Westminster home last summer. Gary A. Skillman, 24, of Westminster faces up to 21 years in prison and $600,000 in fines when he is sentenced March 3.

Skillman was convicted on all criminal charges against him, including conspiring to violate another person’s civil rights, using force and threat of force to intimidate the family because of their race and using fire in the commission of a felony. He had maintained that he was simply a bystander to the racially motivated crime July 28 that occurred outside Alvin and Lillie Heisser’s home at 6122 Shawnee Road.

Skillman’s lawyer acknowledged that his client was present when the cross was built and set afire in the predawn hours of July 28, but claimed that a friend of Skillman’s was responsible. Prosecutors and Assistant Public Defender Dean Steward said they cannot locate the friend.