Deryl Dedmon and two other Rankin County, Miss. young men pleaded guilty Thursday to federal hate crime charges for the hit-and-run death of African-American James C. Anderson. One day after Dedmon was sentenced to two life terms in prison after pleading guilty to murder under a state hate crime law, he, and two other teens were charged and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the federal hate crime law, according to the Clarion Ledger.
Anderson was violently attacked and then run over by a group of white teens in June 2011. Dedmon, who was 19 at the time, was behind the wheel when prosecutors say he intentionally ran over Anderson with his Ford-250 truck because Anderson was black.
Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division, said: “This is really a case about a group of racist thugs who made a sport of targeting vulnerable African Americans in Jackson and attacking them without provocation simply because of the color of their skin.”
“On a number of occasions they drove around Jackson looking for African Americans to assault,” Perez said during a news conference after the hearing. “Jackson is a wonderful community, however, for these defendants they referred to Jackson as `Jafrica.’ African Americans in Jackson were subhuman to them.”
In entering his guilty plea to the state charges on Wednesday, Dedmon admitted he and a group of white teens were partying in Puckett, a small town outside Jackson, when he suggested they find a black man to harass. They found Anderson before dawn outside a hotel.Dedmon, 19, received two life sentences on those charges.
On June 8th, Dedmon and the two other teens involved in the case will face sentencing for federal charges; conspiracy to commit a hate crime and to committing a hate crime. Authorities said the investigation continues and there could be more arrests.
Violation of the federal hate crime law carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Conspiracy to commit a hate crime carries a maximum five years.