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

After Texas Charges Only Misdemeanors, Feds Win Felony Case Against Hate Criminals

By Bill Morlin on July 24, 2012 - 1:52 pm, Posted in Anti-Black, Hate Crime

Three white supremacists involved in a racially motivated assault last year on a black man in Houston will serve federal prison sentences ranging from 30 to 77 months.

Brian Kerstetter, 32, was sentenced yesterday to 77 months, followed by three years of supervised release, by U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt. Charles Cannon, 26, was sentenced to 37 months and Michael McLaughlin, 41, to 30 months. They each also must complete three years of supervision upon their release.A Houston jury on April 16 convicted the three of violating federal law contained in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Those three convictions are believed to raise the number of people convicted nationwide under the 3-year-old law to 15.

“James Byrd was murdered 14 years ago not far from Houston because he was African-American, and today, these defendants have been sentenced under the critical new law enacted in his name for viciously attacking an African-American because of the color of his skin,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “It is a sad reality that violent acts of hate committed because of someone’s race are not a thing of the past, and the department will continue to use every available tool to identify and prosecute hate crimes whenever and wherever they occur.”

The three men met on Houston streets and “bonded” over their white supremacist tattoos, authorities said.  After removing their shirts, they approached and confronted Yondell Johnson, 29, as he waited for a bus shortly before midnight on Aug. 13.

Johnson, an amateur boxer, was backed up against a pole and fought off the men for about 10 minutes before one of them grabbed his ankles and pulled him to the ground.  Then, the attackers stomped and kicked Johnson, causing serious injuries.  “I thought I was on my way to dying, especially when they got me on the ground,” the victim said later.

Initially, the three were charged only with state misdemeanors before the Department of Justice stepped in, seeking and getting federal felony indictments.

Passage of the Shepard-Byrd hate crime law “provided a powerful tool to law enforcement,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris said after the three were sentenced.

“With today’s sentencing, the message is clear,” Morris said. “Our communities will not tolerate hate, and individuals who commit such despicable bias-motivated crimes have been put on notice. They will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

  • greg

    Pr:oof that black folks have never been treated fairly in this country the same as Obama has been blamed since day one in what the predominant race of all decisions in America.Just look how they have screwded over all cultures.And truthfully they just screwed themselves.Love always overrules hatred it biblical then and biblical now.Remember God knows all athings and sees all things.He created you so He sees.: HE watchn. :

  • aadila

    Let’s see…are these cops (one already found not guilty, the rest still pending trial) some of the good ones, or some of the bad ones? This one from Houston, captured on video by an unseen civilian, shows the victim was black, unarmed, handcuffed and 15 years old:

    If you watch the full video of the beating it just goes on and on. Most people in Texas think this is good police work. What about you all?

    Mind you most don’t go to trial at all because typically there is only the victim’s word against the LEOs, who count on powerful presumption of propriety (and juries, like this one, without any black members, who ask for popcorn when the video is shown.)

  • Joseph

    Oh Texas Police. Well. You have good ones, and not so good ones. I just call all of them sir or ma’am. Now, my disabled veteran plates tend to curve the profiling, but I remember when I was young. I do have stories (memories) I could probably make money with.

  • aadila

    Well that’s a positive sign.

    Now the only people in Texas who are free to commit hate crimes are the police.

  • Joseph

    …what I mean is, with all of the progress I’ve see Texas make, we’ve taken a few steps back since President Obama has been in office.

    It was like, okay, we’re still on control…but now, I gotta watch out where I take my son.

    I’m seeing more and more tattoos. It’s nothing to see Gang Tattoos, but race related tattoos are usually covered up in metro areas. I’m seeing more and more of those, like a resurgence.

    My son watches gangland on netfix with me. So he can know what to watch out for as well. It helps to be knowledgeable.

    Not the case here though, looks like they found a mark and tried to exploit it. No way to avoid it.

  • Joseph

    I gotta tell you. I’ve seen Texas make a lot of progress with race relations, at least in the cities. This was in Houston, where I am from, which currently has about 25% Black and 40% Hispanic populations. There are no white supremecist compounds in Houston. I hate to admit it but we’re seeing this rise for a reason.

  • SamDamnit

    As a Texan, I am ashamed of our state wide tolerance of bias crimes, including the attempts to disenfranchise voters. I think that our law makers should be held accountable.

  • Krissy

    Its appalling how prevalent these kind of supremacist views are down there and I am glad the perpetrators are getting felony charges.

  • Sam Molloy

    In any state, if the races were reversed, these perps would be under he jail.

  • ModerateMike

    Cases like these are the reason why I support federal hate crimes legislation. Some would say that “an assault is an assult; why treat it differently just because the motive was hatred for the victim?” A fair question, but one that should be directed first toward those who think that three people attacking someone randomly is not a serious crime as long as the victim has more melanin in his skin than the perpetrators.

  • Joseph

    I agree. I don’t always agree with DOJ investigations, but in cases such as these, I think the local decision makers need to be held accountable as well.

  • CoralSea

    Since these idiots almost killed this poor man, I’d say their sentences weren’t long enough, although at least they didn’t escape with only misdemeanors. Considering that Texas is constantly executing people (whether they are guilty or not), you’d think they would have taken this case a lot more seriously. Was this attack initially considered a misdemeanor because of race? If so, then I think the DOJ needs to be prosecuting others in addition to the three stooges.