Second Mississippi man pleads guilty to hate crime charge in cross burning

Graham Williamson, 38, faces up to 30 years in prison in the 2017 cross burning, which he admitted was done to frighten and intimidate black residents.

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By Phil Helsel

A Mississippi man has pleaded guilty to federal charges related to a 2017 cross burning meant to intimidate black residents in the small town of Seminary, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Graham Williamson, 38, pleaded guilty to one count of interference with housing rights, which is a federal civil rights violation, and one count of conspiring to use fire to commit a federal felony, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi said in a statement.

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Williamson and another man burned the cross in Seminary, a town of 300 people about 20 miles northwest of Hattiesburg, on Oct. 24, 2017. Williamson admitted in the plea agreement that they did it to intimidate black residents, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

"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," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst said in a statement.

Williamson faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 when he is sentenced Nov. 5, prosecutors said.

The Justice Department’s civil rights division was involved in the prosecution of the case. The cross burning targeted people in the Keys Hill neighborhood of Seminary, prosecutors said.

Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Civil Rights Division, said in the statement that Williamson "used a violent symbol of racial intimidation to threaten these victims and inspire fear" and that "the Department of Justice does not tolerate these hateful and historically egregious acts."

Louie Bernard Revette, pleaded guilty in April to one count each of interference with housing rights and using fire during the commission of a federal felony, the Justice Department previously announced.

Revette faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 when he is sentenced Sept. 10, according to federal prosecutors and online court records.