Mississippi Man Admits Burning Cross Outside Black Family Homes to 'Threaten, Frighten, and Intimidate' Them

A man is facing a lengthy jail sentence after he admitted to burning a cross in a predominately black area of Mississippi in order to intimidate the families that live there.

Graham Williamson, 38, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges after admitting one count of interference with housing rights and one count of conspiring to use fire to commit a federal felony.

The Department of Justice announced that Williamson admitted to planning and carrying out a racially motivated cross-burning in October 2017 at the Key Hill area of Seminary, Mississippi, along with his co-conspirator, Louis Bernard Revette.

Williams said he constructed the cross using materials from in and around Revette's home. The pair then set it alight near the home of African-American residents, including the home of a juvenile victim, in order to "threaten, frighten, and intimidate" them.

"Williamson acknowledged that he knew burning crosses have historically been used to threaten, frighten, and intimidate African-Americans," the DoJ said in a statement.

Cross-burning is a racist practice widely associated with groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Williamson now faces a maximum of 30 years in jail and a $500,000 fine when he is sentenced on November 5.

"The defendant used a violent symbol of racial intimidation to threaten these victims and inspire fear, while they resided in the security of their own homes," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement. "The Department of Justice does not tolerate these hateful and historically egregious acts, and will continue to vigorously prosecute criminals who violate the civil rights of peaceful community members."

Mike Hurst, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, added: "Those who commit criminal acts based on race to intimidate and scare our fellow citizens will face swift and certain justice from this U.S. Attorney's Office. These types of hateful actions have no place in our communities, and we will continue to fight for and uphold the civil rights of all throughout our State."

In April, Revette also pleaded guilty to one count of interference with housing rights and one count of using fire during the commission of a federal felony in connection to the cross burning, reports the Clarion-Ledger.

He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on August 20.

"While wounds are still healing from Mississippi's past, incidents such as this only serve as setbacks and should be fully condemned in every community," Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Mississippi Christopher Freeze in a statement. "The FBI stands firm that those who commit these reprehensible crimes will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted."

cross burning
(File photo) Hooded and robed members of the Ku Klux Klan surround 40-foot-high burning cross in ritual one member described as "sacred" in Sacramento, California. A Mississippi man pleaded guilty to cross burning, in an attempt to "threaten, frighten and intimidate" black families. Bettmann / Contributor/Getty