Two Mississippi pleaded guilty Wednesday to using dangerous weapons, including beer bottles, sling shots and motor vehicles, to try to injury African Americans, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
William Kirk Montgomery, 23, from Puckett, Mississippi, and Jonathan K. Gaskamp, 20, from Brandon, Mississippi, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Mississippi, to conspiracy and federal hate crime charges in connection with their roles in the assault of African-Americans in Jackson.
Defendants Deryl Paul Dedmon, 20; John Aaron Rice, 19; and Dylan Wade Butler, 21, all from Brandon, Mississippi, have previously entered guilty pleas in connection with their roles in these offenses.
The conspiracy culminated in the death of James Craig Anderson, who was assaulted and killed on June 26, 2011.
Montgomery and Gaskamp were both charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Matthew Sheppard James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Federal officials stated that beginning in the spring of 2011, Montgomery and Gaskamp and others conspired to harass and assault blacks in and around Jackson.
Specially, federal authorities states that the men targeted those they believed to be homeless or under the influence of alcohol because they believed that such individuals would be less likely to report an assault.
"We hope that today's guilty pleas provide further closure to James Craig Anderson's family and to the community that has mourned his senseless death and been further disheartened by the scope of the conspiracy to commit racially motivated assaults in Jackson by these and other co-conspirators," Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division stated in a press release. "The Justice Department's focus in this matter is ongoing and broad; we will vigorously pursue those who commit racially motivated assaults and will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that those who commit such acts are brought to justice."
According to plea documents presented in court today, the defendants engaged in a series of racially motivated assaults in and around Jackson. On one occasion, Montgomery, Gaskamp, Deryl Paul Dedmon, John Aaron Rice, and two other co-conspirators chased down and stopped an African-American man's vehicle and then beat the man to the point that he begged for his life. Gaskamp kicked the victim in the head and body at least two times.
On another occasion, federal officials stated that Montgomery, Gaskamp, and others attended a birthday party/bonfire in Puckett, Mississippi, during which they discussed going to Jackson to harass and assault African-Americans. Montgomery, Dedmon, Rice, Butler, and three other co-conspirators agreed to carry out the plan. At around 4:15 a.m. on June 26, 2011, Montgomery, Rice, Butler, and another co-conspirator drove to Jackson in Montgomery's white Jeep with the understanding that Dedmon and two other co-conspirators would join them a short time later. Gaskamp did not go to Jackson on this occasion. Upon arriving in Jackson, Montgomery and the other three occupants of the Jeep drove around and threw beer bottles at African-American pedestrians.
At approximately 5:00 a.m., federal authorities stated that Montgomery and the other three occupants of the Jeep spotted Anderson in a motel parking lot off Ellis Avenue. Rice and another co-conspirator decided to get out of the Jeep to distract Anderson while they waited for Dedmon and the other co-conspirators to arrive. After Dedmon and the other two co-conspirators arrived, Dedmon and Rice physically assaulted Anderson. After the assault, one of the co-conspirators yelled "White Power," with Dedmon responding by also yelling "White Power." Dedmon then deliberately used his vehicle to run over Anderson, causing injuries that resulted in his death, according to federal authorities.
"As the agency responsible for investigating criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes, the FBI takes very seriously its responsibility to uphold the civil rights of all citizens," Daniel McMullen, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Jackson Division stated in a press release. "The FBI will continue its efforts to identify and bring to justice all those individuals who participated in depriving Anderson and other citizens of their civil rights because of the color of their skin."