Man Pleads Guilty to Burning Cross in Yard to Intimidate Black Family in Mississippi

Man Pleads Guilty to Burning Cross in Yard to Intimidate Black Family in Mississippi

Officials have announced that a Mississippi man has pleaded guilty in federal court to burning a cross in his front yard with the intent to intimidate a Black family, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Guardian reports that 24-year-old Axel Cox of Gulfport, Mississippi mounted a wooden cross in his front yard on Dec. 2, 2020, according to officials. Cox then reportedly doused the wooden cross with motor oil and lit it within view of his Black neighbors.

The U.S. Department of Justice stated that Cox “admitted to violating the Fair Housing Act when he used threatening and racially derogatory remarks toward his Black neighbors and burned a cross to intimidate them.”

The assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, said, “Burning a cross invokes the long and painful history, particularly in Mississippi, of intimidation and impending physical violence against Black people.”

The New York Times reported that Black Americans have increasingly found themselves the target of hate crimes, which rose between 2019 and 2020. That includes the mass shooting at a Tops Supermarket store in Buffalo, NY on May 14, where 10 people were killed by a white supremacist. The gunman, Payton Gendron, 19, will be sentenced to life in prison without parole as part of his plea, BBC reported.

“Individuals in our communities should be free from threats and intimidation,” said Luis Quesada, assistant director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division.

“The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to bring to justice anyone who violates the federal laws designed to ensure civil rights are protected.”

Cox faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or both.

Sentencing for Cox is scheduled for March 9, 2023.