Mississippi man charged with federal hate crime for burning cross in yard

Federal prosecutors on Friday charged a Mississippi man with a hate crime for burning a cross in his yard to intimidate a neighboring Black family two years ago.

The Department of Justice said Axel C. Cox, 23, of Gulfport, was charged with one count of criminal interference with the right to fair housing and one count of using fire to commit a federal felony. The fair housing statute Mr. Cox is accused of violating falls under the Civil Rights Act of 1968. 

According to court documents, Mr. Cox allegedly interfered with a Black family’s enjoyment of their housing rights by burning the cross on Dec. 3, 2020. The indictment alleges that Mr. Cox chose to burn the cross because of his neighbors’ race.

Federal prosecutors also said he used threatening and racially derogatory language toward his Black neighbors. 

If convicted on both counts, Mr. Cox faces up to 10 years in for interfering with the victims’ housing rights and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for using fire to commit a federal felony. The sentences would be served consecutively. 

Mr. Cox also faces a fine of up to $250,000 with respect to each charge.

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