Billy James Hammett, 30, of Marysville, Calif., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez to serve 87 months in prison for violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in a 2011 racially motivated attack against a white man and an African-American woman in Marysville. The court also ordered Hammett to pay restitution in the amount of $175 and to serve three years of supervised release following his prison sentence. Hammett pleaded guilty on Dec. 17, 2013, and his co-defendants, Perry Sylvester Jackson, 28, and Anthony Merrell Tyler, 33, have also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
According to documents filed with the court, around 10:45 p.m. on April 18, 2011, a white man and an African-American woman parked their car at a convenience store in Marysville. Shortly afterward, the three defendants, each of whom has white supremacist tattoos, attacked the man and woman based on race. After calling the male victim a “[racial slur]-lover,” Jackson punched him twice in the head through the open passenger window. At the same time, Hammett kicked the woman in the chest. A few seconds later, Tyler smashed the car’s windshield with a crowbar. As the attack continued, the woman managed to take refuge inside the convenience store. All three assailants then descended upon the male victim and began attacking him in the parking lot. He sustained abrasions on his right forearm and knees, while the woman suffered bruising to her chest. At the end of the incident, Tyler used a racial slur to refer to an African-American witness.
In sentencing the defendant, Judge Mendez said he found surveillance video footage of the assault “disturbing.” He noted that Hammett’s attack on the victims was “unprovoked and unwarranted,” and that the victims continue to suffer.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Mendez also specifically considered Hammett’s background and criminal history, which includes a conviction in 2006 for assaulting a 72-year-old black man, also in Marysville. According to court records, Hammett made racial comments immediately before the unprovoked attack. In addition, Hammett has been affiliated with a number of white supremacist gangs, including Supreme White Power. He has tattoos of the words “white power” across his abdomen, a large swastika on the right side of his torso and the word “skinhead” written across the top of his back. Judge Mendez stated during the sentencing hearing that Hammett poses “a serious threat to the public.”
“The defendant and his associates accosted the victims in public and assaulted them because of their race,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “The department is committed to stamping out racial violence and will continue to prosecute hate crimes vigorously.”
“Racially-motivated violence has no place in civilized society,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner for the Eastern District of California. “This office has a history of prosecuting those who perpetrate crimes of hate, and as long as these crimes continue, we will be there to enforce the law and uphold this nation’s constitutional values.”
Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22, 2014, and Tyler is scheduled to be sentenced on July 8, 2014. Each defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
This case was investigated by the FBI with the assistance of the Yuba County Sheriff's Office and the Yuba County District Attorney's Office. The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Wagner and Trial Attorney Chiraag Bains of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.