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Last 2 of Racist, Murderous Gang In Jackson, Miss., Plead Guity to Hate Crimes

James Craig Anderson was killed by a racist gang of whites in 2011.

James Craig Anderson was killed by a racist gang of whites in 2011

The final two members of a racist, murderous gang in Jackson, Mississippi, that targeted Black people with assaults and death pleaded guilty yesterday to felony charges that put an end to the four-year-old hate crime case.

John Louis Blalack, 20, and Robert Henry Rice, 21, were the ninth and 10th members of the gang of men and women to take a plea for the killing of James Craig Anderson, 47, a Black man who was beaten to death on June 26, 2011.

Both were then taken to jail in handcuffs, joining eight others being held who are awaiting sentencing.

“It has been a mighty, mighty good day,” said Barbara Anderson Young, sister of the slain man. “We have been waiting for four years for justice for James Craig Anderson. Today, justice was done for James Craig Anderson.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement, “Justice has been served. 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.”

The gang of assailants spread their reign of hate over much of the spring of 2011, roaming Jackson and randomly selecting victims to abuse. In its last attack, Anderson was killed, sparking a federal investigation that finally ended yesterday.

Blalack pleaded guilty to two felony hate crimes charges in an agreement with prosecutors. He faces up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $500,000. Rice pleaded guilty to one felony hate crime charge. He faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Blalack was one of seven people present the night that Anderson was killed. Answering questions from the judge in court, he admitted between tears and sometimes in a whisper that he helped collect beer bottles from a birthday party and bonfire to use as missiles, and rode to Jackson in a Jeep.

“Our intentions of where we were going, I knew our intentions were wrong,” Blalack said.

It was the last of less than 10 forays into what Blalack said the gang called “Jafrica” — a combination of Jackson and Africa—to assault Black people. It ended in a hotel parking lot where the group spotted Anderson, who appeared to be intoxicated. Blalack said he helped distract Anderson while a second truck came, and then watched as John Aaron Rice and Deryl Paul Dedmon beat Anderson. As Dedmon left in the second truck, he ran over Anderson.

All this was recorded on a hotel surveillance camera, drawing widespread national attention.

Robert Henry Rice pleaded guilty to hate crimes.

Robert Henry Rice pleaded guilty to hate crimes.

Blalack said the Jeep left moments before the rundown, but circled back to see Anderson’s lifeless body after Dedmon phoned to say “I just run that (N-word) over.”

Rice was not present the night of Anderson’s death. He pleaded guilty to one count Wednesday, admitting he drove the vehicle on a night when three of his friends beat a Black man near a golf course until the man pleaded for his life. He had been indicted on four counts.

In a series of exploits, prosecutors say the group threw beer bottles at people, shot ball bearings from a slingshot and tried to run someone down. U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis said, “All they knew was Mr. Anderson’s skin color was Black and because of that, they judged him unworthy of his humanity.”

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