A second white Mississippi man who pleaded guilty in a cross burning incident meant to intimidate his black neighbors has been sentenced to prison.
Graham Williamson, 38, was sentenced to a three-year prison sentence by a federal judge Tuesday. Williamson pleaded guilty to one count of interference with housing rights, a federal civil rights violation, and one count of conspiring to use fire to commit a felony on August 5, 2019.
Williamson conspired with Louie Bernard Revette to build and burn a wooden cross in Seminary, Miss. near the home of an African-American juvenile on October 24, 2017, according to prosecutors. Revette has already been slapped with an 11-year jail term and according to him, he and Williamson wanted to threaten and frighten the black families because of their race or color.
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He was convicted on one count of using fire in the commission of a federal felony, interference with housing rights and a federal civil rights violation in the incident.
The pair, the Department of Justice said, burned the cross in the Keys Hill community in an attempt to threaten, frighten and intimidate their black neighbors because of their race.
“The defendant invoked a terrifying symbol of racial violence to threaten and intimidate the victims for no other reason than their race and where they lived,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division.
“Hate crimes like this contravene our society’s well-established principles of equality and freedom from race-based intimidation, and the Department of Justice will continue to pursue and prosecute such crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”
U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst of the Southern District of Mississippi added: “Those who terrorize our people and commit crimes based on the color of someone’s skin will receive swift and certain prosecution from this office.
“Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to do all that we can to prevent such racist crimes so that all our people can live in peace and without fear.”
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Jackson Field Office, including the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the Jackson Public Corruption Task Force.
“Mississippians should not have to fear for their safety within their own neighborhoods, and this case should send a strong message to those who threaten others based on race or color,” FBI Jackson Division Special Agent in Charge Michelle A. Sutphin said in a statement.
“Civil rights investigations remain a top priority for the FBI in Mississippi, and we will continue to vigorously investigate and seek prosecution for these violations,” she added.