JACKSON, Mississippi — Only two defendants remain in the case of a series of 2011 racially motivated beatings of blacks that culminated in the death of James Craig Anderson.
Two other defendants, Sarah Adelia Graves of Crystal Springs and Shelbie Brooke Richards of Pearl, each pleaded guilty to charges Friday. Both pleaded guilty to federal felony charges on conspiracy to commit a hate crime, while Richards also pleaded guilty to concealing the crime by lying to Jackson police detectives. Both were taken to jail to await April sentencing dates.
Graves faces up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. Richards faces up to eight years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.
John Louis Blalack and Robert Henry Rice, both of Brandon, have pleaded not guilty and remain set for a Jan. 26 trial in U.S. District Court. With the two Friday pleas, eight people have been convicted, and all could take the stand against Blalack and Rice.
The lawyers of the two remaining defendants, though, have been putting up a more vigorous defense for their clients. And Robert Henry Rice, who claims he was not even present on the night of Anderson's death, wants a separate trial.
Lawyers for both Blalack and Rice have also attacked prosecutors' proposed jury questions as too intrusive and designed to produce a biased jury. They also have asked to be able to eliminate extra jurors. Rice's brother, John Aaron Rice, was among the first wave of six defendants who pleaded guilty.
Anderson's June 26, 2011, death captured widespread attention after it was caught on a hotel surveillance camera. The 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.
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