Three defendants have been sentenced to prison for their roles in the hate crime death of a black man in Mississippi who died after being beaten by a group of white teens and run over by a truck in 2011, U.S. authorities said. Deryl Paul Dedmon, now 22, was sentenced to 50 years in prison; John Aaron Rice, 21, to more than 18 years; and Dylan Wade Butler, 23, to seven years, federal authorities said this week.
Each defendant had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the death of James Craig Anderson, 48, authorities said.
“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,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
Seven other defendants are awaiting sentencing, authorities said.
Grisly events behind death
The three defendants admitted they and others conspired to harass African-Americans with beer bottles, sling shots and vehicles in attempt to injure them, authorities said.
The defendants targeted blacks who were homeless or drunk “because they believe that such individuals were less likely to report an assault,” authorities said in a statement. “The co-conspirators would often boast about these racially motivated assaults.”
After a birthday party for a mutual friend, the defendants and other conspirators agreed to assault blacks, authorities said.
Rice, Butler and other occupants in a Jeep found Anderson in a motel parking lot about 5 a.m. on June 25, 2011, in Jackson and “decided that Anderson would be a good target for an assault because he was African-American and appeared to be intoxicated,” authorities said in a statement. Rice and a conspirator distracted Anderson while they waited for Dedmon to arrive.
Dedmon and two conspirators arrived in Dedmon’s Ford F250 truck. Rice first punched Anderson in the face to knock him to the ground, and then Dedmon punched Anderson in the face several times while he was on the ground, authorities said.
As the defendants and conspirators left the lot, one shouted, “White Power!”
Just before getting back into his truck, Dedmon also yelled, “White Power!”
Dedmon then “deliberately” ran over Anderson, causing injuries that killed him, authorities said.
Rice, Butler and a number of the conspirators then gave false statements to police about the incident, authorities said.
Caught on video
Anderson’s death drew national attention after CNN first reported it and aired exclusive surveillance video of the killing, captured by a parking lot security camera in a Jackson suburb.
The killing prompted several large marches and prayer vigils in Jackson, a city of about 175,000.
Authorities believe Dedmon led and instigated the attack, which took place after a night of drinking in largely white Rankin County, outside Jackson.
The gang of teens climbed into Dedmon’s green truck and a white SUV and drove 16 miles to the western edge of Jackson. They would have seen Anderson immediately as they exited the highway, officials said. He was standing in the hotel parking lot just beyond the exit ramp.
On the videotape obtained exclusively by CNN, the group of teens is seen pulling into the parking lot and stopping where Anderson is standing, although he is just off camera and not visible.
The teens can then be seen going back and forth between their cars and Anderson.
Witnesses told authorities this is when Anderson’s beating took place, as the teens yelled racial epithets, including “white power.”
Authorities allege Dedmon and many of the other teens pummeled Anderson repeatedly as he crumpled to the ground, although this is not visible on the tape. After the beating, some of the teens left and others got into the green Ford truck.
At this moment, Anderson becomes visible on the tape as he staggers into view and walks toward the truck.
Shortly afterward, Dedmon allegedly boasted and laughed about the killing, according to statements some of the teens made to detectives. “I ran that n—– over,” he allegedly said in a phone conversation to the teens in the other car.