Mississippi man pleads guilty to federal charges in 2017 crossburning case, faces up to 30 years in prison, $500,000 fine

Published 11:38 am Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A Mississippi man pleaded guilty Monday to federal hate crimes charges after he burned a cross in 2017 near black residences.

Graham Williamson, pleaded guilty to one count of interference with housing rights, a federal civil rights violation and one county of conspiring to use fire to commit a federal felony, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

Williams, 38, admitted that he and a co-conspirator planned and carried out a racially motivated crossburning in a predominantly African-American residential area of Seminary, Mississippi.

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Specifically, Williamson admitted that he and the co-conspirator constructed a cross using materials from in and around the co-conspirator’s residence, placed the cross near the home of African-American residents of that area, including the home of a juvenile victim identified as M.H., and lit the cross on fire.

Williamson further admitted that he built and burned the cross to threaten, frighten and intimidate M.H. and other African-American residents because of their race and color of their skin, and because those individuals lived in the Keys Hill area of Seminary, Mississippi. Williamson acknowledged that he knew burning crosses have historically been used to threaten, frighten and intimidate African-Americans.

Williamson faces a maximum total sentence of 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine on the two charges. Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 5.

“The defendant used a violent symbol of racial intimidation to threaten these victims and inspire fear, while they resided in the security of their own homes,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice does not tolerate these hateful and historically egregious acts, and will continue to vigorously prosecute criminals who violate the civil rights of peaceful community members.”