By The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss
JACKSON, Miss. —
The charges read in federal court in Jackson against 21-year-old Rankin resident Joseph Dominick sounded more like something from the civil rights era than today.
But in pleading guilty to a federal hate crime, for being part of group that regularly came to Jackson in 2011 and 2012 to harass African-Americans by throwing beer bottles and shooting metal ball bearings at them with sling shots, Dominick, just as others did who plead guilty before him, reminded us that while much has changed since then, racial hate acts are not something only from the past.
The case is related to one that made national headlines for Mississippi in 2012, when guilty pleas were entered by Deryl Dedmon, Dylan Wade Butler and John Aaron Rice of Rankin County, who pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges relating to the June 26, 2011, hit-and-run death of James Craig Anderson, a black man, near a motel. That case was the first time the federal law known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act has been used in which defendants’ actions resulted in a victim’s death.
The law, signed in 2009, was named in memory of James Byrd Jr., who was killed in Jasper, Texas, in 1998 after being dragged behind a pickup. Shepard, a student, was tortured and murdered in 1998 in Wyoming because of a perception that he was homosexual.
In December, Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 20, of Brandon; and William Kyle Montgomery, 23, each pleaded guilty in federal court in Jackson to one count of conspiracy to commit a hate crime and one count of committing a hate crime.
Dominick, like Gaskamp and Montgomery, was not part of the hit-and-run death of Anderson, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that, “On an occasion predating the death of Mr. Anderson, Dominick, Montgomery, Butler, and others known to the government traveled to Jackson in Dominick’s truck for the purpose of finding and assaulting vulnerable African-Americans. ...”
In other words, the night that Anderson was killed in the hit-and-run accident was not a singular, isolated incident of hatred by a group. That would be bad enough. But the reality we see now as revealed by federal prosecutors is horrific, and numbing. ...
We hope that federal authorities have continued success in closing this case, bringing all participants to justice. Further, we hope these convictions serve as notice to others that hate crimes in Mississippi will not be tolerated.