The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Three Men with White Supremacist Tattoos Convicted in Hate Crime

By Bill Morlin on April 17, 2012 - 2:26 pm, Posted in White Supremacist

A Houston jury has convicted three men who sported white supremacist tattoos on federal hate crime charges for carrying out a racially motivated assault on a 29-year-old black man they cornered at a bus stop.

Charles Cannon, 26, Michael McLaughlin, 41, and Brian Kerstetter, 32, face up to 10 years in prison when they are sentenced in July by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt of the Southern District of Texas. Prosecutors dismissed charges against a fourth man, Joseph Staggs, who testified against the others.

The convictions were the first in Houston under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, enacted in 2009.

With the three guilty verdicts on Monday, 15 defendants have been convicted in a total of nine cases nationwide in which 34 defendants were charged under the federal statute, the Houston Chronicle reported today.

Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said the Houston case shows “that hate crimes are far too common in this country.”

“The Justice Department will continue to use every available tool to identify and prosecute hate crimes whenever and wherever they occur,” Perez said in a statement released by the DOJ.

Initially, the Houston defendants were charged with misdemeanor assault by state prosecutors, who said they intended to upgrade the charges to hate crimes during the trial. The state charges were dismissed when DOJ took over the prosecution.

Prosecutors said the three defendants and the fourth man met on the streets and “bonded” over their white supremacist tattoos. They removed their shirts and approached Yondell Johnson, 29, as he waited for a bus shortly before midnight on Aug. 13.

One of the men asked the victim for the time before another used a racial epithet. The four then surrounded the victim, an amateur boxer who backed up against a pole and fought them off for about 10 minutes. Finally, one of the men grabbed his ankles and pulled him to the ground. One held him down while the others stomped and kicked him.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening,” the victim said. “I thought I was on my way to dying, especially when they got me on the ground.”

During the trial, jurors saw a portion of the attack captured on city surveillance cameras, the Houston newspaper reported.

After they were arrested, a police officer heard McLaughlin and Cannon yell racial slurs at black officers who responded, court documents say.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris said he hopes the convictions “send a powerful public message.”

“The Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a tool the FBI will use to aggressively investigate and prosecute hate crimes as a felony offense,” Morris said.

  • Reynardine

    Erika, that’s because you didn’t say “Refudiating”.

    You might make the motto, “Exsartaginating the White Race”.

    (Ex= out of. Sartago= frying pan)

  • Jonas Rand

    It’s long overdue that some sense of justice is handed to these fascists but the problem goes deeper than a few people. Racism is part of the national paradigm and it needs to be stopped through more than just punishing a few adherents..

  • Erika

    Regarding the intelligence of White Supremacists, I’ve long believed that if someone started a group called the Ludicrous Knights of the Ku Klux Klan with the motto “Refuting White Supremacy Since 1865″ you would find actual White Supremacists ready to join.

  • Erika

    Jack, the SBC is afraid that under hate crimes laws their stating their hatred of homosexuality would be made illegal. While that is obviously a foolish belief (um, First Amendment) I look at things this way.

    If you are worried that stating your religious beliefs will be illegal under a “hate crimes” law the problem is not in the law, but in your religion. Especially, when you claim to follow someone who one of his main teachings was “love your enemies.”

  • Jack Wolford

    Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention hierarchy lobbied strongly against the Hate Crime Bill which became Law . What’s wrong with these people ?

  • juror

    I served on this jury and one thing we were not told till after the trial is that the tattoos were acquired while in prison, where apparently, it is a survival tactic to get a “gang” tattoo of some type. Don’t get me wrong, these guys are getting exactly what they deserve. And there was no doubt they were guilty.

    One thing this trial and jury experience taught me is that we live in an AMAZING country where even the “bad guys” get a week out of 12-14 citizens’ lives to REALLY listen to their case and try to make a fair judgement on their behalf. We spent 5 1/2 days in court hearing all of the facts and none of us took the task lightly. Despite seeing the tattoos on them, we gave them 100% of our attention and weighed the evidence presented to us to base our decision on…not their tattoos. The prosecutors and court appointed defense attorneys were all fantastic!
    Our DOJ gets a new respect from me! And I have a new appreciation for our courts and our country as a whole! GOD BLESS AMERICA!

  • Reynardine

    And talk about wearing your heart on your…where did they have these tattoos?

  • Mrs. Tibbs

    @Erika, calling the arresting officers racial epithets doesn’t help their case either, lol.

  • Kathryn Stein

    Hate crimes are nothing less than terrorist acts and should be prosecuted as such.

  • Ted

    Wow this may be the first time I have heard of the law working as it should. These criminals deserve to have the book thrown at ‘em.

  • Howard1912

    I agree with Eika and Shadow you are absolutely right, these people who proclaim “supremacy” are in fact dim wits. The tattoes they feel compelled to get just show their ignorance and hate. They are wearing their “stupidity” on their sleeves for all the world to know.

  • Louise Savage

    What horrid people to be filled with so much
    hate! I am really happy that they were
    convicted! My heart goes out to all the
    victims! How can they believe they are
    Supreme? Sick!!!

  • Shadow Wolf

    Erika,
    I agree. Violent and racist WNs are not the brightest bulbs, despite their proclamation of being a “Supreme” or “Superior” etc.

  • Reynardine

    Erika, I’m rather with you, there.

  • Erika

    normally with crimes, it can be difficult to prove that the attack was hate motived and not just an attack for some other purpose such as robbery or the defendant is just a jerk – in those garden variety crimes, I would hestitate to call them hate crimes.

    but when the defendants have White supremacist tatoos and there was no apparent robbery, it is obviously a hate motivated crime – and these fools just made it easy for the prosecution. prison is where they belong.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Number Six,

    Very well said. Hear, hear!

  • The Prisoner

    ’bout time the Feds did something right. Hopefully they can get a guilty verdict when they take over the Trayvon Martin case.

  • Shadow Wolf

    They need to start enforcing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act more often. In many instances, local PDs are reluctant to file Hate Crimes in their report, especially if it’s an all White male squad responding to such incidents. This is why it’s probably a good thing if there is a non-White or female officer on the scene. As was with this case, a couple Black officers were there. It then became a slam dunk Hate Crime incident.

  • Reynardine

    Well, good.