Two more white Mississippi men have now pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges for coming to Jackson last year to harass African-Americans citizens. Prosecutors wouldn’t say whether additional people could be charged.
On Tuesday, Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 20, of Brandon; and William Kyle Montgomery, 23, pleaded guilty in federal court in Jackson to one count of conspiracy to commit a hate crime and one count of committing a hate crime.
Their guilty pleas come nine months after three others, Deryl Dedmon, Dylan Wade Butler and John Aaron Rice, pleaded guilty in March to federal hate crime charges, culminating in the June 26, 2011, hit-and-run death of James Craig Anderson, a black man.
All five are in custody and awaiting sentencing on the federal charges. Conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years; hate crime a maximum of 10 years.
Federal prosecutors said the five were part of a group of young white males and females from Rankin County who came to Jackson to make a sport of attacking African-Americans, especially those they believed were homeless or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Dedmon admitted in court that he and the others were partying in Puckett, a small town outside Jackson, when he suggested they find a black man to harass, federal prosecutors said.
“The defendants and their co-conspirators boasted about their participation in racially motivated physical assaults in Jackson on prior occasions, which involved the use of dangerous weapons that resulted in bodily injury to African-American victims,” Justice Department attorney Sheldon Beer said in court Tuesday.
The actions of Dedmon, 20, Butler, 20, Rice, 19, Montgomery and others culminated in the early morning of June 26 when Dedmon attacked Anderson, 47, before running him over. Dedmon already has been sentenced in Hinds County Circuit Court to two life terms in prison after pleading guilty to murder under a state hate crime law.
Gaskamp, however, wasn’t part of the group that came to Jackson the morning Anderson was killed. He had been on previous trips, including one where a black man was attacked in the parking lot of a golf course and begged for his life. Beer said the defendants laughed about the man begging for his life.
On Tuesday, the charges against Gaskamp and Montgomery were unsealed and they entered the guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves.
Anderson’s sister, Barbara Anderson-Young, said “we are still looking for justice.”
Anderson-Young has advocated that all seven of the young whites who came to Jackson the morning her brother was killed should face justice.
James Craig Anderson was in a hotel parking lot and appeared to be intoxicated when he was approached by the first group of young people. Once Dedmon arrived on the scene, Anderson was physically attacked and then ran over when Dedmon sped out of the parking lot.
A hotel video surveillance camera captured the image of Dedmon in his pickup truck running over Anderson.
The case was the first time the federal law known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act has been used in a case where the defendants’ actions resulted in a victim’s death.
The Shepard-Byrd Act, signed into law in 2009, was named for James Byrd Jr., who was killed in Jasper, Texas, in 1998 after being dragged behind a pickup on an asphalt road with his ankles bound by a chain. Shepard, a student, was tortured and murdered in 1998 in Wyoming because of a perception that he was homosexual.
On Tuesday, one of Anderson’s family members became emotional, and the family’s attorney, Winston Thompson, left the courtroom and brought back some paper towels for him.
On the other side, family members of Gaskamp appeared visibly shaken and Montgomery’s relatives cried.
The family members wouldn’t comment.
Gaskamp’s attorney, Rick Mitchell, declined comment, but said later via phone that the family wanted to make it clear his client wasn’t with the group that came to Jackson when Anderson was killed. Montgomery’s attorney also wouldn’t comment.