Yesterday (March 9), a Mississippi man received federal hate crime charges after he burned a cross in his front yard to intimidate a Black family. U.S. District Judge Halil S. Ozerden sentenced 24-year-old Axel Cox of Gulfport to 42 months in prison.
According to the Department of Justice, the crime happened on Dec. 3, 2020 when Cox attempted to scare his Black neighbors by burning the cross. Documents revealed he violated the Fair Housing Act by using threatening and racially derogatory language toward the residents. What led to the extreme racist behavior? Officials say a verbal altercation between Cox and the neighboring family was the motivating factor. After the argument, the young man took two pieces of wood to make a cross, placed it in plain sight of the victims’ home, poured oil onto it and set it on fire. As this was going on, Cox shouted racial slurs and threatened the family. He later confessed that he did it because the victims were Black, and he wanted them to move away from his Mississippi home.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said, “This cross burning was an abhorrent act that used a traditional symbol of hatred and violence to stoke fear and drive a Black family out of their home.” She continued speaking about Cox’s vile ways: “While one might think cross-burnings and white supremacist threats and violence are things of the past, the unfortunate reality is that these incidents continue today. This sentence demonstrates the importance of holding people accountable for threatening the safety and security of Black people in their homes because of the color of their skin or where they are from.”
U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi condemned the practice. “No one should endure such hatred and intimidation because of the color of his skin. This defendant has been held accountable. His sentence should permeate among his kind and declare that Mississippi and the Department of Justice will not tolerate this hateful behavior,” he vowed. The FBI’s Jackson branch was also involved in the investigation. In addition to Cox’s prison sentence, he must also pay $7,810 in restitution and comply with three years of supervised release.