Four more indicted in 2011 attacks on blacks

Associated PressJuly 16, 2014 

JACKSON -- Four more people have been indicted in what prosecutors say was a series of racially motivated attacks on blacks in Mississippi.

John Louis Blalack, 20, of Brandon; Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, of Crystal Springs; Robert Henry Rice, 23, of Brandon; and Shelbie Brooke Richards, 20, of Pearl, entered not-guilty pleas Wednesday before Magistrate Keith Ball on various charges including conspiracy and committing a hate crime.

Bail set bond at $100,000 for each of them. A trial date is set for Sept. 15 before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate.

Prosecutors said 10 people in all have been indicted for attacks on blacks between April 1, 2011, to June 26, 2011.

The June 2011 death of James Craig Anderson sparked a broader investigation into reports groups of young white men and women would drive from the majority-white suburbs of Rankin County into majority-black Jackson, seeking black people to verbally harass and physically assault, and they would later boast about the attacks.

Seeking out the helpless

Prosecutors said the co-conspirators used dangerous weapons, including beer bottles, sling shots and motor vehicles, to cause, and attempt to cause, bodily injury to blacks. They would target people who appeared to be homeless or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, believing such victims would be less likely to fight back or to report attacks to police, prosecutors said.

Blalack, Graves and Richards are additionally charged in the Anderson incident.

Anderson, 47, an autoworker, was beaten and then run over in Jackson before dawn June 26, 2011. Prosecutors say the group of seven young men and women were at party the night of Anderson's death when they decided to find black people to victimize and headed to Jackson in two cars.

According to authorities, they found Anderson at a Jackson hotel and he was beaten and run over by a truck.

Defendants Deryl Paul Dedmon, 20; John Aaron Rice, 19; Dylan Wade Butler, 21; William Kirk Montgomery, 23; Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 20; and Joseph Dominick, 22, all from Brandon, have entered guilty pleas in connection with their roles in the Anderson case and other offenses. They are awaiting sentencing.

Family against death penalty

Anderson's family has asked prosecutors not to pursue the death penalty, saying they're opposed to capital punishment. The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against all seven of those allegedly involved in Anderson's death. The lawsuit, pending in Hinds County Circuit Court, seeks unspecified damages.

Prosecutors said Blalack and Robert Rice are charged with two additional racially motivated hate crimes involving alleged assaults, and with carrying a firearm in relation to one of those assaults. Graves and Richards are additionally charged with soliciting others to commit hate crimes against blacks, and Graves is charged with making false statements to the FBI.

Prosecutors said the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Video shows man's death

The case has been the subject of dozens of local and national news stories and received widespread attention after a video of Anderson's death was obtained by news organizations.

The video, taken by a hotel surveillance camera, shows a white Jeep Cherokee in which John Rice was allegedly a passenger leaving a hotel parking lot at 5:05 a.m. Less than 20 seconds later, a Ford truck backs up and then lunges forward. Anderson's shirt is illuminated in the headlights before he disappears under the vehicle next to the curb. Prosecutors said Dedmon was driving the truck and later bragged he ran over Anderson, using a racial slur to describe him.

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