American Justice Notebook

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Mississippi Man Sentenced to More Than 3 Years in Prison for a Cross-Burning, Hate Crime

A Mississippi man was sentenced Thursday for burning a cross in his front yard to intimidate a Black family, federal officials stated.

U.S. District Judge Halil S. Ozerden sentenced Axel Cox to three years and six months and restitution of $7,810 for burning a cross in his front yard to intimidate a Black family.

According to court documents, in Gulfport, Mississippi, on Dec. 3, 2020, Cox, 24, violated the Fair Housing Act when he used threatening and racially derogatory language toward his Black neighbors and burned a cross to intimidate them.

After a dispute with the Black family victims, Cox wedged two pieces of wood together to form a cross, placed it in clear view of the victims’ residence, doused it in oil, and set it alight.

During this incident, Cox yelled threats and racial slurs toward the house’s occupants.

Cox admitted that he lit the cross on fire because the victims were Black and that he intended to scare them into moving out of the neighborhood.

“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Adding, “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.”

“No one should endure such hatred and intimidation because of the color of his skin,” said U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi. “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.”

A federal grand jury indicted Cox on Sept. 20, 2022.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Cabell Jones for the Southern District of Mississippi and former Trial Attorney Noah Coakley II of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.