HAWTHORNE, N.Y. (AP) – A white man suspected of burning a cross in a black family’s yard in a New York City suburb was arrested Thursday and charged with a hate crime.

Christopher Hudak’s sister was involved in a school fight with a boy from the family hours before the cross appeared last week, State Police Capt. Keith Corlett said at a news conference Thursday.

The boy was arrested on a juvenile assault charge, Corlett said.

Hudak, 20, of Cortlandt Manor, was charged with aggravated harassment, Corlett said. The case will be prosecuted as a hate crime, said Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore.

“No matter what issues, concerns or beliefs people may have toward one another, no family, individual or persons should be subjected to, or should have to tolerate, any act of hate – particularly one of this nature,” Corlett said.

No plea was entered. A call to Hudak’s lawyer, John Sullivan, was not immediately returned.

Timothy Artope, a Hendrick Hudson High School student, admitted fighting with two girls on Nov. 21, claiming one used a racial slur. That night his family found the 4-foot wooden cross burning in their yard.

Several students were suspended, and middle and high school students in the Hendrick Hudson district discussed racism with their teachers on Monday.

Wesley Artope, the boy’s father, said he was happy to hear of Hudak’s arrest.

“I’m relieved that someone is being held accountable, and I’m relieved that my family can relax as far as feeling that they were under any danger,” he told The Journal News.

A call later in the day to the Artopes’ home seeking comment on Timothy Artope’s arrest was not immediately returned.

AP-ES-11-29-07 1830EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.