The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
When an African-American man was assaulted and fatally run over with a pickup truck in Jackson, Miss., in 2011, it looked for a time like the crime may never be solved even though it was caught on surveillance camera and broadcast nationally.
Now, after an extensive 4-year investigation by the FBI, 10 young people have been convicted for their roles in the murder of James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker, and other similar racial attacks on victims that appeared homeless or intoxicated.
The latest guilty pleas came Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss.
John Louis Blalack, 20, of Brandon, Miss., pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Robert Henry Rice, 24, also from Brandon, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the act.
The statutory maximum sentence for these violations is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing for Blalack is set for April 23 and sentencing for Rice is set for April 30.
The case went all the way to the desk of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who released a statement today about the 10 arrests and convictions, calling it a “landmark case.”
“Justice has been served,” Holder said. “The hate crimes to which these defendants have pleaded guilty were as shocking as they were reprehensible—targeting innocent people for racially-motivated acts of violence that inflicted grievous harm and even claimed a life.”
Holder went on to say the Justice Department “will never rest in our pursuit of those who victimize their fellow citizens.”
“This landmark case should send a clear message: that anyone who commits an act of bias-motivated violence, or who violates the civil rights to which all Americans are entitled, will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Holder said.
Previously, Deryl Paul Dedmon, 22; John Aaron Rice, 21; Dylan Wade Butler, 23; Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 22; and Joseph Paul Dominick, 23, all from Brandon, and William Kirk Montgomery, 25, from Puckett, Miss., Shelbie Brooke Richards, 21, from Pearl, Miss., and Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, from Crystal Springs, Miss., pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in these offenses.
The FBI investigation revealed that beginning in the spring of 2011, Blalack, Robert Rice and others conspired with one another to harass and assault African-American people in and around Jackson.
On various occasions, the racist gang of young people “used dangerous weapons, including beer bottles, sling shots and motor vehicles, to cause, and attempt to cause, bodily injury to African-American people,” the Justice Department statement said.
The attackers “would specifically target African Americans they believed to be homeless or under the influence of alcohol because they believed that such individuals would be less likely to report an assault. The co-conspirators would often boast about these racially motivated assaults,” the statement said.
The attack on Anderson occurred after Blalack and others attended a birthday party and bonfire for a friend in Puckett, Miss. During the party, Blalack and others talked about going to Jackson to harass and assault African-American people, Justice Department officials said.
In the early morning hours of June 26, 2011, Blalack, Montgomery, Dedmon, John Aaron Rice, Butler, Richards and Graves agreed to carry out their plan to find, harass and assault African-American people. Robert Rice did not accompany his friends on that trip to Jackson.
At around 4:15 a.m., Blalack, Montgomery, John Aaron Rice, and Butler drove to Jackson in Montgomery’s white Jeep with the understanding that Dedmon, Richards and Graves would join them a short time later. Blalack and the other three occupants of the Jeep then drove around Jackson and threw beer bottles from the moving vehicle at African-American pedestrians.
At approximately 5:00 a.m., Blalack and the other three occupants in the Jeep spotted Anderson in a motel parking lot. The occupants of the Jeep decided that Anderson would be a good target for an assault because he was African-American and appeared to be visibly intoxicated, the Justice Department statement said.
Blalack and John Aaron Rice decided to get out of the Jeep to distract Anderson while they waited for Dedmon, Richards and Graves to arrive.
After Dedmon, Richards and Graves arrived in Dedmon’s Ford F250 truck, Dedmon and John Aaron Rice physically assaulted Anderson. Rice first punched Anderson in the face, knocking Anderson to the ground, and then Dedmon punched Anderson in the face multiple times while he was on the ground.
After the assault, Blalack, Montgomery, Rice and Butler left the motel parking lot in the Jeep. As they left, one of the occupants of the Jeep yelled, “White Power!” Prior to getting back into his truck, Dedmon responded by also yelling “White Power!”
“Once back in his Ford F250 truck, Dedmon deliberately used his vehicle to run over Anderson, causing injuries which resulted in his death,” the Justice Department statement said. Blalack’s guilty plea includes his role in that offense.
On a previous occasion, the Justice Department said, Blalack, Montgomery, Butler and Dominick drove around west Jackson to find and assault African Americans. Blalack and the other occupants of the vehicle purchased bottles of beer to drink and then threw the beer bottles at African Americans.
The occupants of the vehicle also purchased a sling-shot and used it “to shoot metal ball bearings out of the moving vehicle at African American pedestrians,” the statement said. Blalack pleaded guilty for his role in this offense.
Another racially motivated assault involving members of the gang occurred at or near a golf course in Jackson. On that evening, Robert Rice, Blalack, Montgomery, Gaskamp, Dedmon and John Aaron Rice were in a vehicle again searching for “vulnerable African-American men to assault,” the statement said.
When a potential victim was spotted, Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Gaskamp got out of their vehicle and chased the victim down. “The three men beat the man to the point that he begged for his life,” the Justice Department said. Investigators did not disclose if that victim was ever located or identified. Robert Rice’s guilty plea included his role in that offense.
A neo-Nazi skinhead with a criminal record faces sentencing next month for a hate crime in which he used a pair of scissors to stab an African-American man in the head in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2011.
Ryan Christopher Zietlow-Brown, also known as Ryan Christopher Rosenbaum, pleaded no-contest Tuesday in Santa Barbara
Superior Court to felony charges of attempted murder and mayhem. He faces up to 22 years in prison.
As part of the plea, Zietlow-Brown, 28, acknowledged he committed the felonies as part of his skinhead gang affiliation and that the offenses were hate crimes as described by California state law, Senior Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Siegel told Hatewatch.
A “no contest” plea means the defendant acknowledges that he or she would be found guilty based on the facts of the case, if it were to go to trial.
According to court testimony, Zietlow-Brown encountered two men on Aug. 12, 2011, as they walked to a McDonald’s on State Street in Santa Barbara. The two co-workers – one black and one white – were singing a song by a well-known rap group.
Zietlow-Brown approached and asked the victim “if the boy [with him] was white.” When the victim replied, “Yes, why are you asking?” Zietlow-Brown responded, “Tell him to ….[expletive] start acting like it.” The victim told Zietlow-Brown to mind his own business and continued walking.
Minutes later, as the two men were walking back to work, Zietlow-Brown approached them again, now armed with a pair of scissors he had stolen from a nearby store, Siegel said.
Zietlow-Brown attacked the victim, stabbing him multiple times in the head before fleeing to the home of a female friend. He admitted the stabbing to her and she assisted in wiping blood from the scissors, Siegel said. Zietlow-Brown later was arrested based on descriptions of the attacker provided by eyewitnesses.
“The victim has recovered, but he still experiences pain,” the prosecutor told Hatewatch. “He does have some scarring, both emotional and physical, as a result of this attack.” He is expected to attend the sentencing hearing on Feb. 24.
The case against Zietlow-Brown has been delayed several times as investigators probed his connections to other neo-Nazi skinheads in the Simi Valley and in the state’s prison system, Siegel said.
Zietlow-Brown was an associate of Kenneth Richard Barber, 45, who was convicted in Santa Barbara County of attempted premeditated murder and assault with a deadly weapon for attacking fellow jail inmates, the prosecutor said. Barber is now serving a 40-year-to-life sentence at the California State Prison in Corcoran.
Two young women from Brandon, Miss., have confessed to federal hate crimes related to racially-motivated assaults carried out by them and their associates against African-American people, culminating in the 2011 murder of a man run over with a truck.
James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker who was African-American, was struck and killed on June 25, 2011, by a Ford F250 driven by a gang of white youths. His brutal murder was captured on surveillance video and broadcast nationally.
The gang of youths essentially had made a sport of looking for disabled, homeless or intoxicated African-Americans to verbally harass and physically assault, and then boasted about their deeds with the belief that such individuals would be less likely to contact law enforcement.
Shelbie Brooke Richards and Sarah Adelia Graves, both 21, each pleaded guilty last week to one count of conspiracy to violate the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Justice Department said in a news release. Richards also pleaded guilty to an additional count of concealing information about a felony. Sentencing dates have not been set.
A hate crime charge is being added to others filed against an Illinois man who was arrested last week after he allegedly targeted a synagogue with extensive vandalism and anti-Semitic graffiti.
John White, 40, of Westmont, Ill., is being held under $5 million bond in the DuPage County Jail. He is charged with a hate crime at a place of religious purposes; institutional vandalism; illegal possession of a firearm, criminal damage to property and illegal possession of marijuana.
White was arrested on Oct. 21 after police responded to a report of a man driving a vehicle recklessly, damaging landscaping on the grounds of Etz Chaim Synagogue in Lombard, Ill. Moments earlier, seven windows at the synagogue had been broken and graffiti was written on an exterior wall.
DuPage County Assistant State’s Attorney Enza LaMonica told a judge on Friday that the suspect left a hatchet, a machete, an ax and a knife at the front entrance of the synagogue, the Chicago Tribune reported. Inside the suspect’s car, police found gun targets, rat poison, brass knuckles and a hateful note, the prosecutor told the court.
After White was arrested, police served a search warrant at his home in Westmont, Ill., where he lives with his mother. She told authorities her son, who as a record of drug arrests, has suffered from mental illness, the newspaper reported.
In the home, police located and seized “thousands of rounds of ammunition, and recovered a rifle, shotgun and four handguns.”
State Attorney Robert Berlin issued a statement calling the charges “extremely serious.”
“DuPage County is built on the strength of our communities, and an attack on a religious institution is considered an attack against the entire community,” the prosecutor said.
Rabbi Andrea Cosnowsky issued a statement saying Congregation Etz Chaim “condemns the recent act of vandalism on our congregational building and the apparent bigotry behind it.”
Other places of worship are offering support.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Sabet Siddiqui, a representative of Masjid-Ul-Haqq Mosque in Lombard, said: “We stand together with Congregation Etz Chaim with respect and condemn these acts of hatred and antagonism against any religion.”
Eileen Maggiore, a pastoral associate at Christ the King Church in Lombard, expressed sorrow of such hate crimes. “It’s a terrible shame that this still happens in our world. We are grateful no one was hurt and we stand in solidarity with our neighbors at Congregation Etz Chaim,” she said.
Charges of committing a religious hate crime and manufacturing machine guns have been filed against an oil field worker in the small central California community of Taft.
Jack Alfred Dennis, 34, of Taft, posted a $42,500 bond and was released over the weekend after being arrested Sept. 12 by police who went to his place of employment, then served a search warrant at his home.
Dennis has been charged with two counts of possessing machine guns, two counts of manufacturing machine guns and a fifth count of committing a religious hate crime, Taft Police Lt. Peter Aranda told Hatewatch this week.
Police identified Dennis as a potential suspect after various community fund-raising signs produced by Westside Believers Fellowship, a church based in Taft, were defaced with anti-religious graffiti, Aranda said.”
While searching the suspect’s home for material used to deface these signs, officers discovered the [illegal] firearms in the residence,” Aranda said.
Officers also found an assortment of “antigovernment pamphlets,” which the police official couldn’t immediately describe more fully. They also found an assortment of books, including To Hell with God, Silent Death, The Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacturing, Vest Buster and Poor Man’s James Bond.
Aranda said police seized two AK-47 assault rifles, illegally modified to fire fully automatic, a bolt-action rifle and multiple “parts and pieces” for various firearms, along with more than 300 rounds of high-powered ammunition. No drugs or evidence of drug manufacturing were discovered.
“We don’t believe at this time he has any direct ties with any formal [extremist] organizations,” the police official said.
In a rather rare move, the FBI has posted a $2,000 reward to help solve a hate crime in which a woman who recently immigrated to the United States was assaulted by an attacker who yelled obscenities about Muslims.
The attack occurred on June 5 when “an unknown masked man forced his way into the victim’s home in Albuquerque, N.M.,” the FBI said Thursday in a prepared statement. The FBI, working closely with the Albuquerque Police Department, has labeled the incident a hate crime. ( continue to full post… )
A federal appeals court has reversed the convictions of an Amish splinter sect leader and 15 of his followers who were found guilty in 2012 of federal hate crimes after forcibly shaving the beards and hair of breakaway members of the religious community.
The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on Wednesday that a federal trial judge in Ohio had improperly instructed the jury on the motive element of the crime, which was brought under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act.
At issue in the ruling was whether the trial jury had been properly instructed on how to determine if the crimes met the motive element of the federal hate crime act, which required that the faith of the victims be a primary cause of the assault and not simply a “significant factor.” If federal prosecutors decide to appeal, the case could go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Alternatively, prosecutors could decide to retry the case, correcting the jury instruction that resulted in the ruling. ( continue to full post… )
LAS VEGAS – A former “skinhead girl” now nearing middle-age, wearing sensible shoes and jailhouse shackles was the star witness in a federal courtroom here Wednesday, the first day of testimony in a racially charged double murder trial 16 years in the making.
Mandie Abels, who has the words “skinhead girl” tattooed across her back, was escorted by U. S. Marshals into courtroom 7C from a prison cell where she is serving a 15-year sentence for her role in what she called “a vile deed”—leading two anti-racist skinheads to their deaths in the desert just outside of Las Vegas.
In the early morning hours of July 4, 1998 Lin Newborn, 24, and Daniel Shersty, 21 were ambushed and shot to death, prosecutors say, by four white supremacists. “They despised what the victims stood for,” federal prosecutor Patricia Sumner told the jury during opening arguments Wednesday.
The killings were a shocking escalation in the violent—but until then rarely deadly—nationwide conflict between racist skinheads and their anti-racist rivals. Newborn, who was black and worked at a popular Las Vegas body piercing shop, and Shersty, who was a white U.S Air Force airman stationed at the nearby Nellis Air Force Base, were leaders of a fledging group called Las Vegas Unity Skins. ( continue to full post… )
The ghosts of Mississippi cannot rest.
Three years after a middle-aged black auto plant worker named James Anderson was killed in Jackson, Miss., when he was deliberately run over by a gang of white suburban teenagers in a pickup truck, federal law enforcement officials announced yesterday a new round of criminal indictments in the case that shocked and embarrassed the state.
During the attack, which included a savage beating in a motel parking lot in the early morning hours of June 26, 2011, someone in the truck shouted “White Power.”
On Wednesday, federal law enforcement officials announced that three of the people believed to have been in the pickup – Louis Blalack, who is now 20, Sarah A. Graves, 21, and Shelbie B. Richards, 20 – have been charged “with a racially motivated hate crime resulting in the death of a victim run over by a truck.”
Along with another suspected member of the gang of white youths, Robert H. Rice, 23, the three were also charged, according to a federal news release, for their alleged “roles in a conspiracy to commit federal hate crimes against African-American people in Jackson, Mississippi.”
For weeks before Anderson, 49, was killed, the group had been cruising the nighttime streets of Jackson in a two-car caravan, hunting, harassing and hurting African Americans.
They often carried pistols and beer bottles. Their main targets were the homeless and the high. ( continue to full post… )
This is a story about race and the city. It is set in Chicago, but it could take place anywhere ignorance and prejudice stubbornly cling.
On Monday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, a 55-year-old white man, standing 6 feet tall and weighing 240 pounds, allegedly spit on and slapped a slightly built, elderly black woman, apparently for smoking a cigarette too close to him outside on a street in downtown Chicago.
The man, David Nicosia, undoubtedly did not realize – or even imagine – that the silver haired, 79-year-old black woman he mockingly called “Rosa Parks” when he violently confronted her was a civil rights pioneer and local icon in her own right.
Her name is Arnette Hubbard — or, as the bailiffs and lawyers who enter her courtroom call her, Judge Hubbard. She was first appointed to the Cook County circuit court bench in 1997, after a long career as a lawyer and advocate for civil rights and women’s issues.
“She’s more than an icon, she’s historic,” lawyer Geraldine Simmons told the Sun-Times. “She has been an inspiration to young attorneys for years.”
The judge was outside a downtown courthouse and office complex on Monday, having a smoke when she walked past Nicosia, the owner of an IT company, who reportedly holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University. ( continue to full post… )