Mississippi racial beatings: Hearing set for 2 suspects to change pleas to guilty

January 6, 2015 in News, The Buzz

In this June 26, 2011 frame grab from a security video, people gather in a parking lot next to the Jackson, Miss., street where James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old black man was allegedly run down by a pickup truck driven by Deryl Dedmon, a white teen. At least one of the four people indicted in a series of racial beatings of blacks is in talks with prosecutors about pleading guilty. Tom Fortner, the lawyer for Sarah Adeila Graves, said Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 that plea talks are at a "critical" stage and could be resolved within the next several weeks. Six men pleaded guilty earlier in the investigation, sparked after James Craig Anderson was run over by a truck and died in June 2011. (AP Photo)

In this June 26, 2011 frame grab from a security video, people gather in a parking lot next to the Jackson, Miss., street where James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old black man was allegedly run down by a pickup truck driven by Deryl Dedmon, a white teen. At least one of the four people indicted in a series of racial beatings of blacks is in talks with prosecutors about pleading guilty. Tom Fortner, the lawyer for Sarah Adeila Graves, said Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 that plea talks are at a “critical” stage and could be resolved within the next several weeks. Six men pleaded guilty earlier in the investigation, sparked after James Craig Anderson was run over by a truck and died in June 2011. (AP Photo)

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for two men charged in a series of 2011 racial beatings that culminated in the death of a Jackson man.

Court documents show hearings for John Louis Blalack and Robert Henry Rice are scheduled Wednesday morning before U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate in Jackson.

Both men previously pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors and attorneys for the men did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Blalack was indicted on six felony counts. They include conspiracy, four counts of committing a hate crime and one count of using a firearm during a hate crime. Rice was indicted on four felony counts: conspiracy, two counts of committing a hate crime and one count of using a firearm to commit a hate crime.

The men were indicted in 2014 at the end of a lengthy investigation sparked by the June 2011 death of James Craig Anderson, who was run over by a pickup truck outside a Jackson hotel. The assault on Anderson was caught by a hotel surveillance camera. It received widespread attention after the video was obtained by news organizations, including The Associated Press.

Blalack and Rice, both of Brandon, are the last two defendants in the case. Eight others, including Rice’s brother, John Aaron Rice, have pleaded guilty previously to taking part in attacking Anderson or others. Prosecutors have said John Rice and others cooperated in the investigation, which eventually produced a second set of four indictments including Blalack and Robert Henry Rice.

Two women from that second group, Sarah Adelia Graves and Shelbie Brooke Richards, entered guilty pleas in December. All eight still await sentencing in federal court. Deryl Paul Dedmon pleaded guilty in state court in 2012 on murder and hate crime charges and was given two life sentences.

Prosecutors say the group of seven young men and women were at party the night of Anderson’s death when they decided to find black people to victimize and headed to Jackson in two trucks.

Blalack is among those alleged to have been present the night the 47-year-old car plant worker was killed. Video showed a white Jeep Cherokee leaving a hotel parking lot at 5:05 a.m. Less than 20 seconds later, a Ford truck backed up and then lunged forward. Anderson’s shirt was illuminated in the headlights before he disappeared under the vehicle. Anderson was beaten before he was run over.

Police say that was the last in a series of racially motivated attacks undertaken by a group of suburban residents, which also included 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.

Prosecutors said the suspects usually sought out people who were homeless or drunk. Other than Anderson, the black people who were assaulted have not been identified.