WASHINGTON, D.C. 07/17/2014—Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis for the Southern District of Mississippi announced today that a federal grand jury has indicted John Louis Blalack, 20, of Brandon, Mississippi, Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, Robert Henry Rice, 23, of Brandon, and Shelbie Brooke Richards, 20, of Pearl, Mississippi, for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to commit federal hate crimes against African-American people in Jackson, Mississippi.
Blalack, Graves and Richards are additionally charged with a racially motivated hate crime resulting in the death of a victim run over by a truck. Blalack and 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 African-Americans, and Graves is charged with making false statements to the FBI. 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 previously entered guilty pleas in connection with their roles in these offenses.
The indictment alleges that, beginning in the spring of 2011, the defendants and others conspired with one another to harass and assault African-American people in and around the Jackson area. According to the indictment, 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-American people. The co-conspirators are alleged to have specifically targeted African-American people 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. The co-conspirators would often boast about these racially motivated assaults. The indictment details several such assaults, including the fatal assault on a victim who was intentionally run over.
The defendants face a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison.
The case is the result of a cooperative effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, the Civil Rights Division 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.
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.