William Kirk Montgomery, 23, from Puckett, Miss., and Jonathan K. Gaskamp, 20, from Brandon, Miss., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss., to conspiracy and federal hate crime charges in connection with their roles in the assault of African-Americans in Jackson, the Justice Department announced today. Defendants Deryl Paul Dedmon, 20; John Aaron Rice, 19; and Dylan Wade Butler, 21, all from Brandon, Miss., have previously entered guilty pleas in connection with their roles in these offenses. The conspiracy culminated in the death of James Craig Anderson, who was assaulted and killed on June 26, 2011.
Montgomery and Gaskamp were both charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Matthew Sheppard James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Beginning in the spring of 2011, Montgomery, Gaskamp and others conspired with one another to harass and assault African-Americans in and around Jackson. On numerous occasions, the co-conspirators used dangerous weapons, including beer bottles, sling shots and motor vehicles, to cause, and attempt to cause, bodily injury to African-Americans, specifically targeting those they believed to be homeless or under the influence of alcohol because they believed that such individuals would be less likely to report an assault. Additionally, the co-conspirators would often boast about these racially motivated assaults.
“We hope that today’s guilty pleas provide further closure to James Craig Anderson’s family and to the community that has mourned his senseless death and been further disheartened by the scope of the conspiracy to commit racially motivated assaults in Jackson by these and other co-conspirators,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department’s focus in this matter is ongoing and broad; we will vigorously pursue those who commit racially motivated assaults and will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that those who commit such acts are brought to justice.”
According to plea documents presented in court today, the defendants engaged in a series of racially-motivated assaults in and around Jackson. On one occasion, Montgomery, Gaskamp, Deryl Paul Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and two other co-conspirators chased down and stopped an African-American man’s vehicle and then beat the man to the point that he begged for his life. Gaskamp kicked the victim in the head and body at least two times.
On another occasion, Montgomery, Gaskamp and others attended a birthday party/bonfire in Puckett, Miss., during which they discussed going to Jackson to harass and assault African-Americans. Montgomery, Dedmon, Rice, Butler and three other co-conspirators agreed to carry out the plan. At around 4:15 a.m. on June 26, 2011, Montgomery, Rice, Butler and another co-conspirator drove to Jackson in Montgomery’s white Jeep with the understanding that Dedmon and two other co-conspirators would join them a short time later. Gaskamp did not go to Jackson on this occasion. Upon arriving in Jackson, Montgomery and the other three occupants of the Jeep drove around and threw beer bottles at African-American pedestrians.
At approximately 5:00 a.m., Montgomery and the other three occupants of the Jeep spotted Anderson in a motel parking lot off Ellis Avenue. Rice and another co-conspirator decided to get out of the Jeep to distract Anderson while they waited for Dedmon and the other co-conspirators to arrive. After Dedmon and the other two co-conspirators arrived, Dedmon and Rice physically assaulted Anderson. After the assault, one of the co-conspirators yelled, “White Power!”, with Dedmon responding by also yelling “White Power!” Dedmon then deliberately used his vehicle to run over Anderson, causing injuries that resulted in his death.
Thereafter, a number of the co-conspirators, including Montgomery, agreed to, and did, give false statements to law enforcement officials about the nature of their interactions with Anderson.
“The defendants today took responsibility for committing federal hate crimes by assaulting vulnerable Americans solely because of their race,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis. “Working with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, our office will continue to make the prosecution of hate crimes and other civil rights violations a top priority in the Southern District of Mississippi.”
“As the agency responsible for investigating criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes, the FBI takes very seriously its responsibility to uphold the civil rights of all citizens,” said Daniel McMullen, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Jackson Division. “The FBI will continue its efforts to identify and bring to justice all those individuals who participated in depriving Anderson and other citizens of their civil rights because of the color of their skin.”
These guilty pleas were the result of a cooperative effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office. This case was investigated by the Jackson Division of the FBI and the Jackson Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Sheldon L. Beer and Deputy Chief Paige M. Fitzgerald of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenda R. Haynes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.