‘His Sentence Should Permeate Among His Kind’: Mississippi Man Sentenced to 42 Months for Burning Cross In Front Yard to ‘Intimidate’ Black Neighbors

A U.S. Southern District of Mississippi judge has sentenced a 24-year-old Mississippi man to three-and-a-half years in prison for burning a cross in his front yard reportedly to intimidate his Black neighbors.

Cross-burning is a noted act of domestic terrorism, historically practiced in the South by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups to intimidate protected groups such as African-Americans and Jews.

On Thursday, March 9, the United States Department of Justice announced Judge Sul Ozerden sentenced Gulfport citizen Axel Cox to 42 months in prison after he pled guilty to violating the Fair Housing Act. In addition to time behind bars, Cox received three years of supervised release and restitution in the amount of $7,810.

Mississippi Man Sentenced to 42 Months for Burning Cross In Front Yard to 'Intimidate' Black Neighbors
Axel Cox is accused of burning a cross on his front lawn. (Photo: Twitter/Fifth Shades of Whey)

According to WAPT, Cox is already incarcerated for receiving stolen property and possession of a controlled substance in Harrison County.

On Dec. 3, 2020, the man erected a wooden cross in the front of his yard in an area so his African-American neighbors could see. After the cross was set up, he covered it with motor oil and set it ablaze.

Records regarding the incident state that while the fiery cross burned, Cox yelled out racially derogatory offenses at his neighbor — adding to the trauma.

Cox allegedly burned the cross because he and his neighbor had an argument earlier in the day. His lawyers said Cox was upset because members of the Black family threatened to shoot his dog until it died.

The incident was reported, and Cox was later charged with a hate crime. On Sept. 20, 2022, a federal grand jury indicted Cox for violating the family’s civil rights.

FBI special agent in charge Jermicha Fomby of the FBI Jackson Field Office said Cox tried to “intimidate members of the community” with his threats and actions.

“The FBI prioritizes the protection of civil rights to ensure citizens remain safe without fear of any harm,” said Fomby. “We remain committed to tirelessly thwarting the nefarious actions of those, like Mr. Cox, who intended to impact fear upon citizens based on biases.”

Cox weaponized the cross against the family, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

“This cross burning was an abhorrent act that used a traditional symbol of hatred and violence to stoke fear and drive a Black family out of their home,” she said.

U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi commented, “No one should endure such hatred and intimidation because of the color of his skin. This defendant has been held accountable. His sentence should permeate among his kind and declare that Mississippi and the Department of Justice will not tolerate this hateful behavior.”

This is not the first time something of this sort has happened in Mississippi in recent times.

In 2019, Graham Williamson pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges after he admitted to performing a cross burning outside the homes of African-American families in an effort to frighten and intimidate them.

The man admitted to burning crosses in Seminary, Mississippi, on Oct. 24, 2017, with a co-conspirator named Louis Bernard Revette. Williamson said he made the crosses from material he found around Revette’s home.

One of the victims whose home he placed the cross near was a juvenile. He was sentenced to 36 months in prison, according to the DOJ.

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