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Perez Remarks

Perez Remarks

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Published by: Michael A. Scarcella on Mar 22, 2012
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11/16/2013

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 ________________________________________________________________________FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CRTTHURSDAY, MARCH 22, 2012 (202) 514-2007WWW.JUSTICE.GOVTTY (866) 544-5309
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY BY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERALTHOMAS E. PEREZAT A PRESS CONFERENCE REGARDING GUILTY PLEAS IN MISSISSIPPI
Today is an important day in the journey for justice for the family of James CraigAnderson, and other African American victims of senseless, racially motivated violence inJackson. Earlier today, the Department of Justice secured guilty pleas from three of theindividuals responsible for the brutal, racially motivated murder of James Anderson. This is theeighth case brought under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act,and the first involving the death of a victim. The Shepard-Byrd Act was named in memory of James Byrd Jr., who died a horrific death in Jasper, Texas, after being dragged behind a pick-uptruck on an asphalt road with his ankles bound by a chain. Mr. Byrd’s death shocked theconscience of the nation. Sadly, the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Anderson are ashocking reminder of how hate fueled violence manifests itself in unthinkable ways.This is a case about a group of racist thugs who made a sport of targeting vulnerableAfrican Americans in Jackson, and attacking them without provocation, simply because of thecolor of their skin. On a number of occasions, they drove around Jackson looking for AfricanAmericans to assault. Jackson is a venerable community. However, for these defendants,Jackson was “Jafrica”; African Americans were subhuman, and their mission was to drivearound Jackson looking for African Americans to attack. They used many different weapons incarrying out their sport. Beer bottles and fists were typical tools of their trade. They took greatpleasure one evening in watching one victim plead for his life after they had brutally assaultedhim.Their sport took a deadly turn on the early morning of June 26, 2011. On that fatefulmorning, defendants Deryl Dedmon, Dylan Wade Butler and John Aaron Rice and others weredriving around Jackson looking for African Americans to attack when they spotted James CraigAnderson, a 47-year-old African American who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.Defendants Rice and Butler spotted Mr. Anderson and concluded that he was an inviting target,and they corralled him while Dedmon and others arrived. After Mr. Anderson got back to hisfeet, defendant Dedmon and others got into what became the murder weapon, a Ford F-250pickup truck, which weighs over a ton, and proceeded to deliberately run over Mr. Anderson. Asthey drove away, one of the participants placed a call on a cell phone bragging about theiraccomplishment.
 
Following the murder of James Byrd Jr., I travelled to Texas as part of the JusticeDepartment’s investigation and, among other things, toured the crime scene with the caseinvestigators. I remember vividly reflecting on how it was possible that such a depraved actcould have occurred. I hoped that such a crime would never occur again. Sadly, I wasmistaken. Yesterday, defendant Dedmon pleaded guilty to a state charge of depraved heartmurder. That description is a spot on characterization of this hate crime.We would like to think that horrific crimes such as these are in the history books, nottoday’s headlines. Sadly, hate crimes remain a persistent problem in our nation. We must andwill remain ever vigilant in our common humanity to root out hate and violence when it rears itsugly face. Hate crimes such as this simply have no place in Jackson, in Mississippi or anywherein America. No one in our nation should live in fear being attacked because of the color of theirskin, their ethnicity, the God they choose to worship or whom they love.The Justice Department will use every tool at its disposal to root out hate crimes. TheCivil Rights Division, in conjunction with its partners in the United States Attorneys’ Officesand the FBI, has aggressively focused on prosecuting hate crime cases, and our prosecutions areon the rise. Last year, the department convicted the most defendants on hate crimes charges inover a decade. And, over the past three fiscal years, the department has prosecuted 35 percentmore hate crime cases than during the preceding three year period. The Byrd-Shepard law is acritical new tool for combating hate crimes. Already, 27 defendants have been charged in casesacross the country. There is an undeniable headwind of intolerance that rears its ugly head indifferent ways, whether it is today’s events or the arson of mosques, assaults on immigrants andbrutal attacks of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.Our work is not finished, either here in Jackson or across America. Let me be clear aboutthis case. Yesterday’s state court plea and today’s guilty pleas of the three defendants mark animportant milestone in this investigation. But our work is not finished, and our investigationcontinues, and I fully expect additional activity. We will not rest until every responsibleindividual is brought to justice.Last year, I had the privilege of traveling to Jackson to celebrate the 50
th
anniversary of the Freedom Riders historic and courageous journey for justice. It was a memorable day here inJackson. Mississippi and indeed America have come a long way in the journey for equalopportunity. Today’s guilty pleas should not obscure the progress we have made in Jackson andcommunities across America in ensuring equal justice under law. At the same time, today’sguilty pleas and the horrific facts of this hate crime are another reminder that civil rights remainsthe unfinished business of America.I had an opportunity to meet with some of the victim’s family members. You haveshown enormous patience and fortitude in the face of this tragedy. Days like today areinvariably bittersweet for loved ones. Nothing we can do will bring Mr. Anderson back. I amhopeful that yesterday’s and today’s guilty pleas bring some sense of justice for Mr. Anderson’sloving friends and family. Again, I assure you that our work is not done.

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