2nd former Ole Miss student sentenced in statue vandalism

Austin Reed Edenfield AP file photo
Austin Reed Edenfield AP file photo
Austin Reed Edenfield
AP file photo

OXFORD, Mississippi (AP) — A former University of Mississippi student was sentenced Thursday to a year’s probation plus 50 hours of community service for placing a noose on the statue of the school’s first black student.

U.S. District Judge Mike Mills sentenced Austin Reed Edenfield, 21, of the Atlanta suburb of Kennesaw, Georgia, and ordered Edenfield to obtain substance abuse and mental health treatment, multiple news outlets reported.

Edenfield pleaded guilty in March to one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees by putting a noose on the James Meredith statue. He had faced up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Prosecutors recommended probation for Edenfield, who cooperated in the early prosecution of another former student, Graeme Phillip Harris, of Alpharetta, another Atlanta suburb. Harris pleaded guilty to the same charge in June 2015 and was sentenced to six months in prison.

Edenfield acknowledged that he tied the noose that ended up around the neck of the Ole Miss statue of James Meredith in February 2014. He, Harris and a third person also draped a former Georgia state flag with a Confederate battle emblem on the statue of Meredith, who integrated Ole Miss in 1962 amid rioting that was suppressed by federal troops.

Prosecutors said Harris hatched the plan after a night of drinking with Edenfield and a third freshman in the Sigma Phil Epsilon fraternity house on campus. They said Harris frequently expressed ill will toward black people and that during that night, he told Edenfield that the act would cause a sensation, saying “It’s James Meredith, people will go crazy.”

After the noose and flag were placed on the statue, Edenfield and Harris returned at sunrise on Feb. 16 to observe and were filmed by a video camera at the Ole Miss student union

Both Harris and Edenfield are white.

The third man has not been charged.

All three students withdrew from Ole Miss, and the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity closed its chapter.

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