3 Sentenced in Racial Beatings That Led to Black Man’s Death


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City Hall in Jackson. (AP Photo)

JEFF AMY, Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Three more young white men, all part of a group that repeatedly searched Mississippi’s capital city for black people to attack, have been sentenced to federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Wednesday sentenced 25-year-old William Kirk Montgomery to 19 ½ years for his role in the attacks in the spring of 2011 that climaxed with the death of 47-year-old auto plant worker James Craig Anderson. Two other men who were part of earlier outings but not present that night — 22-year-old Joseph Paul Dominick and 23-year-old Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp — got four-year sentences.

The three men, like the seven other defendants in the case, had pleaded guilty earlier.

Anderson’s death came on the last of a series of forays to what the group called “Jafrica” — a combination of Jackson and Africa — to assault black people. It ended in a hotel parking lot where the group spotted Anderson, who appeared to be intoxicated. Montgomery and six others were present as John Aaron Rice and Deryl Paul Dedmon beat Anderson. As Dedmon left in his truck, he ran over Anderson, inflicting fatal injuries.

The actions were captured on a hotel surveillance camera, drawing widespread national attention.

The inquiry that followed Anderson’s death revealed that the group, including Dominick and Gaskamp had repeatedly driven around, throwing beer bottles and shooting ball bearings from a slingshot. One night, Gaskamp was among those who beat an unidentified man at a golf course. Another night they tried to run someone down.

“Yes, they had done it before and no one died, and the court believes, but for the death of James Craig Anderson, they would have returned to Jafrica again and again,” said Reeves, who is black. “They would have continued their mission to harm, their mission to hurt.”

All three expressed remorse before sentencing.

“There are no right words for me to be able to say how sorry I am,” Dominick said. “There are no words to right the wrongs.”

“It was the worst mistake of my life and I can’t take it back,” Gaskamp said.

Anderson’s family members repeated their emotional condemnation of the acts that led to the death.

“I want you to understand what you took from me, what you took from my family,” said James Bradfield, Anderson’s longtime partner. “There is no sentence that is going to be good enough for you.”

Reeves urged the men to make good on their promises of redemption.

“Justice will not be complete unless these defendants — unless you — use the remainder of your lives to learn from this experience and fully commit to making a positive difference in the New Mississippi; that Mississippi which is only two years shy of celebrating its bicentennial,” Reeves said. “Prove to your family, your friends and all those who have read about this case that you were worth saving.”

Reeves sentenced Dedmon to 50 years and John Aaron Rice to 18 years on Feb. 10. That day, he also sentenced Dylan Wade Butler to seven years. Dedmon is also concurrently serving two life sentences in state prison after pleading guilty in a Mississippi court in 2012 to capital murder and hate crime.

Two men and two women face sentencing in April.

 

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