WASHINGTON – A Covington County man was ordered to serve three years in federal prison after admitting to burning a cross in the yard of a black child to try to intimidate him and other residents.
Graham Williamson, 38, of Seminary was sentenced by Judge Keith Starrett of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi to 36 months on federal charges for his commission of the cross-burning on Oct. 24, 2017. Williamson pleaded guilty on Aug. 5 to one count of interference with housing rights, a federal civil rights violation, and one count of conspiring to use fire to commit a federal felony.
Williamson, along with a co-conspirator, built and burned a wooden cross near the home of a juvenile victim who lived in a predominantly African-American residential area of Seminary. He burned the cross to threaten, frighten and intimidate the juvenile and other African-American residents because of their race and color, and because they lived in and occupied residences in that area of Seminary.
“Those who terrorize our people and commit crimes based on the color of someone’s skin will receive swift and certain prosecution from this office,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst of the Southern District of Mississippi. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to do all that we can to prevent such racist crimes so that all our people can live in peace and without fear.”
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division added, “The defendant invoked a terrifying symbol of racial violence to threaten and intimidate the victims for no other reason than their race and where they lived. Hate crimes like this contravene our society’s well-established principles of equality and freedom from race-based intimidation, and the Department of Justice will continue to pursue and prosecute such crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”
Williamson is the second individual to be sentenced for participation in this cross-burning. Co-conspirator Louie Bernard Revette previously pleaded guilty to one count of interference with housing rights and one count of using fire to commit a federal felony. On Sept. 10, Starrett sentenced Revette to 11 years incarceration on those two charges.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi Field Office, including the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the Jackson Public Corruption Task Force. Special Litigation Counsel Julia Gegenheimer of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Mayberry of the Southern District of Mississippi prosecuted the case.