Guilty

Seminary man to be sentenced Nov. 5, faces 30 years in prison

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced that a Covington County man pleaded guilty on Monday to federal charges related to the commission of a cross-burning on Oct. 24, 2017, in Seminary. 

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.

In his plea, Williamson admitted that he and a co-conspirator planned and carried out a racially motivated crossburning in a predominantly African-American residential area of Seminary. He admitted that he and the co-conspirator constructed a cross using materials from in and around the co-conspirator’s residence, placed the cross near the home of African-American residents of that area, including the home of a juvenile victim identified as M.H., and lit the cross on fire. Williamson further admitted that he built and burned the cross to threaten, frighten and intimidate M.H. and other African-American residents because of their race and color of their skin, and because those individuals lived in the Keys Hill area of Seminary. Williamson acknowledged that he knew burning crosses has historically been used to threaten, frighten and intimidate African-Americans.

Williamson faces a maximum total sentence of 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine on the two charges. Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 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,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “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, said, “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.” 

The case was investigated by the FBI Jackson Division’s Hattiesburg Resident Agency. Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Gregory Mayberry for the Southern District of Mississippi and Trial Attorney Julia Gegenheimer from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.

For more information about Department of Justice’s work to combat and prevent hate crimes, visit www.justice.gov/hatecrimes.

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