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Last of 10 young white people in Mississippi racial assault case gets 10 years in prison

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JACKSON, Mississippi — The last of 10 young white people who repeatedly assaulted African-Americans in Mississippi's capital city received the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison Friday, completing a long-running federal prosecution in the case.

The string of assaults ended in the June 2011 death of autoworker James Craig Anderson, who was beaten and run over by a truck in a hotel parking lot.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate sentenced Robert Henry Rice of Brandon to 10 years. Rice had pleaded guilty to one felony hate crime charge in January.

The attack on Anderson was the last of a series of forays that a group of white men and women made into Jackson to assault black people. Hotel surveillance video, obtained by The Associated Press and other media outlets, shows a Ford truck back up and then lunge forward at 5:05 a.m. Anderson's shirt is illuminated in the headlights before he disappears under the vehicle next to the curb.

Rice participated in at least three earlier attacks but wasn't present when Anderson died. That meant he could have gotten less than the top sentence of 10 years, because Wingate ruled last week that he had to base Rice's sentence on aggravated assault charges and not Anderson's death.

Sentencing guidelines presented Friday called for Rice to receive a sentence of seven to nine years in prison, but Wingate gave Rice the maximum sentence of 10 years, saying more time was needed to adequately account for Rice's "long history of perpetrating a reign of terror in Jackson against helpless African-Americans."

Wingate, who was the first African-American federal judge in Mississippi history when appointed, said the defendants had set back progress the state had made on race relations.

"It is so very devastating that we are still in the middle of an atmosphere of hate and violence perpetrated by a group of thugs," Wingate said.

Six white men and two white women were sentenced earlier, receiving federal prison terms ranging from four years to 50 years. Deryl Dedmon, who was driving the truck that ran over Anderson, also received two life sentences in state prison. He pleaded guilty in a Mississippi court in 2012 to capital murder and hate crime.

Lawyers indicated in court last week that an 11th person, a juvenile, also faces proceedings in the case. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis said officials aren't allowed to discuss federal juvenile proceedings.

Besides Anderson's killing, defendants admitted other racially motivated attacks, including the beating of a black man near a Jackson golf course, the beating of another man who tried to sell the suburbanites drugs, attacks on pedestrians using beer bottles and a slingshot, and an attempt to run down another black man when Rice was driving. Attorneys said in court that authorities never found any of the other victims.

Barbara Anderson Young, the victim's sister, said family members were "overwhelmed" with emotion at the end of the case.

"If you do the crime, you will do the time," she said after the hearing. "I hope and I pray that this doesn't happen to anyone else, but this has really, really put a great blemish on the state of Mississippi."


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