A Mississippi man convicted in a racially motivated cross burning meant to intimidate his Black neighbors has been sentenced to three years in prison, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
Graham Williamson, 38, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges in August, admitting to one count of interference with housing rights, and a count of conspiring to use fire to commit a federal felony.
Authorities said Williamson and his accomplice, Louie Revette, built a wooden cross using materials from Revette’s home and ignited it outside the home of an unnamed juvenile resident in Seminary.
“He burned the cross to threaten, frighten, and intimidate [the victim] and other African American residents because of their race, color and because they lived in and occupied residences in that area of Seminary,” the DOJ said of the 2017 cross burning.
Revette, 38, pleaded guilty to similar charges in September and was slapped with an 11-year sentence.
“I want everyone to know I’m not proud of what happened,” he told the court at his sentencing. “I hate what I did. I can’t even believe I did that. I’ve never done anything like that before in my life.”
Prosecutors had pushed for a harsher sentence for Revette, arguing he was instrumental in committing the crime and had actively recruited others to join him in the racist act, the Clarion-Ledger reported. Rose Marie Shears, the grandmother of the juvenile victim, also said she wanted to see Revette and his partner put away for several decades.
“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.
She added: “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.”