Shepherd Hoehn was charged with a hate crime for intimidating his black neighbour, alongside two counts of unlawful weapons possession, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Tuesday.
The 50-year-old allegedly became angry on 18 June when his unnamed neighbour hired a crew to remove a tree from his property in Lawrence, Indiana.
Angered at the work being done next door, Mr Hoehn then “took several steps to intimidate and interfere with his neighbour and the construction workers,” the DOJ wrote in the criminal complaint.
In order to intimidate his neighbour, Mr Hoehn burnt a cross above the fence line between the two properties, displayed a swastika and hung up a large sign that included “anti-black racial slurs,” according to the DOJ.
Mr Hoehn has also been accused of hanging a machete near the sign, throwing eggs at his neighbour’s house and repeatedly playing the song Dixie at a high volume.
Dixie, originating in 1859, is widely considered to have been the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and when asked by authorities why he played it repeatedly, Mr Hoehn said it was because his neighbour is black, according to the New York Post.
The 50-year-old added that he used the intimidation tactics, as he “wanted them to be pissed off because they think I’m a racist and I’m doing something stupid and ignorant.”
However, during interviews with officers after he was arrested, Mr Hoehn repeatedly said that although he hoped his actions would elicit an emotional response from his neighbours, he himself is not racist, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) searched the 50-year-old’s house on 1 July and found several guns and drug paraphernalia. Due to a probation violation in Missouri, Mr Hoehn is banned from owning firearms.
In a statement accompanying the announcement of charges, US attorney Josh Minkler wrote: “Although the First Amendment protects hateful, ignorant and morally repugnant beliefs and speech, it does not protect those who choose to take criminal actions based on those beliefs.
“This office will continue to prosecute federal hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”
If he is convicted, Mr Hoehn could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine (£190,888) for each offence.