Three young white men in Mississippi have become the first people in the Deep South convicted under a 2009 federal hate crime law. Deryl Dedmon, 19—who pleaded guilty to murder earlier this state murder charges—and two accomplices admitted that they repeatedly drove to the city of Jackson to find black people to harass and assault, the New York Times reports. They pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to violating the civil rights of a 47-year-old man Dedmon ran over and killed.
The men, choosing people they believed were drunk or homeless and would not go to the police, attacked their victims with fists, bottles, and slingshots, the court heard. All three face up to life in prison. Dedmon, sentenced to life without parole on the state charges, will probably serve an expected 50-year sentence in federal prison before beginning his state sentence, according to the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. "It would be dangerous for him to serve his time in a Mississippi state prison that has a predominantly black population, given the nature of these crimes," he says. (Read more Mississippi stories.)