A 23-year-old man from Mississippi was charged on Friday with a hate crime after allegedly burning a cross in his yard to threaten and intimidate a Black family.
Axel C. Cox faces one count of criminal interference with the right to fair housing and one more of using fire to commit a federal felony for allegedly burning the cross in the front yard of his Gulfport, Miss., home, according to a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Court documents allege that on Dec. 3, 2020, Cox made "racially derogatory" remarks to his Black neighbors while burning the cross to intimidate them, interfering with their housing rights.
Cox faces up to 10 years in prison for interference with housing rights and a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison for using fire to commit a federal felony. Each charge also carries a fine of up to $250,000.
"This is another stark reminder of how bigotry, racism, and hate-fueled violence are alive and well in our country. Mississippi is no exception," Vangela M. Wade, president of the Mississippi Center for Justice, told The Associated Press.
"The fight to dismantle Mississippi's deeply entrenched culture of injustice and a better tomorrow continues. We are thankful for the courage of the members of the federal grand jury to indict this hate crime."
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division will prosecute the case against Cox alongside Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Cabell Jones for the Southern District of Mississippi.
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