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February 10, 2015

Three Brandon, Mississippi Men Sentenced for Their Roles in the Racially Motivated Assault and Murder of an African-American Man

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department announced today that Deryl Paul Dedmon, 22, John Aaron Rice, 21, and Dylan Wade Butler, 23, all of Brandon, Mississippi, were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Jackson for their roles in federal hate crime charges in connection with an assault culminating in the death of James Craig Anderson, an African-American man, in the summer of 2011. Dedmon, Rice and Butler each previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for their roles in the death-resulting assault of Anderson, 47, of Jackson, Mississippi. Dedmon was sentenced to 600 months; Rice was sentenced to 220 months; and Butler was sentenced to 84 months. A restitution hearing will be set for a later date.

“The defendants targeted African-American people they perceived as vulnerable for heinous and violent assaults—hate crimes, motivated solely by race, that shook an entire community and claimed the life of an innocent man,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “These sentences bring a fitting end to the case against these three men. Although nothing can erase the grievous harms inflicted, or ease the grief of the victim’s friends and loved ones, this outcome holds those responsible for these horrific crimes fully to account. And it illustrates the Justice Department’s steadfast commitment to combating hate crimes, supporting victims, and seeing that justice is done—in every case and circumstance.”

“This case demonstrates that the Department of Justice will vigorously pursue those who commit racially motivated assaults and will cast a broad net to ensure that all who commit such acts are brought to justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “These sentences are just the first three of ten in what we hope will help provide some closure to the victim’s family and to the larger community affected by Mr. Anderson’s death.”

“Hate crimes not only injure the victims and their families, but intimidate entire communities,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis of the Southern District of Mississippi. “The sentences imposed today send a clear message to the community that this office, in partnership with department’s Civil Rights Division, will prioritize and aggressively prosecute hate crimes and other civil rights violations in Southern Mississippi.”

“The guilty pleas and resulting sentences handed down today are the result of the tremendous efforts by men and women in law enforcement who worked on this case,” said Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI in Mississippi. “The FBI takes very seriously its responsibility to protect the civil rights of all Americans, and remains committed to its pursuit of justice for anyone who is deprived of those rights.”

In prior court hearings, the defendants had admitted that beginning in the spring of 2011, they and others conspired with one another to harass and assault African Americans in and around Jackson. On numerous occasions, the co-conspirators used dangerous weapons, including beer bottles, sling shots and motor vehicles, to cause, and attempt to cause, bodily injury to African Americans. They would specifically target African Americans 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. The co-conspirators would often boast about these racially motivated assaults. The defendants further admitted that on June 25, 2011, they and others attended a birthday party in Puckett, Mississippi, for a mutual friend. During the party, the defendants and others talked about going to Jackson to harass and assault African Americans.

By the early morning hours of June 26, 2011, the defendants and four other co-conspirators agreed to carry out their plan to find, harass and assault African Americans. At around 4:15 a.m., Rice, Butler and two co-conspirators drove to west Jackson in a white Jeep with the understanding that Dedmon and two other co-conspirators would join them a short time later. Rice, Butler and the other two occupants of the Jeep then drove around west Jackson and threw beer bottles from the moving vehicle at African American pedestrians they encountered.

At approximately 5:00 a.m., Rice, Butler and the other two occupants of the Jeep spotted Anderson in a motel parking lot off Ellis Avenue. The occupants of the Jeep decided that Anderson would be a good target for an assault because he was African-American and appeared to be intoxicated. 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 in Dedmon’s Ford F250 truck, Dedmon and Rice physically assaulted Anderson. Rice first punched Anderson in the face with sufficient force to knock Anderson to the ground, and then Dedmon punched Anderson in the face multiple times while he was on the ground. After the assault, Rice, Butler and two co-conspirators left the motel parking lot in the Jeep. As they left, one of the occupants of the Jeep yelled, “White Power!” Prior to getting back into his truck, Dedmon responded by also yelling “White Power!”

Once back in his truck, Dedmon deliberately used his truck to run over Anderson, causing injuries which resulted in Anderson’s death. After Anderson’s death, a number of the co-conspirators including Rice and Butler agreed to, and did, give false statements to law enforcement officials about the nature of their interactions with Anderson.

Seven other defendants involved in related cases, William Kirk Montgomery, 25, of Puckett, Mississippi, Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, Shelby Brooke Richards, 21, of Pearl, Mississippi, John Louis Blalack, 20, Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 22, Robert Henry Rice, 24, and Joseph Paul Dominick, 23, all of Brandon, Mississippi, are awaiting sentencing.

This case was the result of a cooperative effort among the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi and the Hinds County, Mississippi, District Attorney’s Office. This case was investigated by the Jackson Division of the FBI and the Jackson Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Sheldon L. Beer and Deputy Chief Paige M. Fitzgerald of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and Glenda R. Haynes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.

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