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Mississippi man pleads guilty to hate crimes following attacks

By Emily Le Coz

JACKSON, Miss (Reuters) - A Mississippi man pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal hate crime charges in connection with attacks on African-Americans that ended with a black man dead after being run over by a truck, federal officials said.

Joseph Dominick, 21, was the sixth person to plead guilty to hate crimes charges for being part of a group of white males who routinely assaulted blacks in the Jackson area starting in the spring of 2011, attacking victims with motor vehicles, beer bottles and sling shots.

The violent outings led to the death of James Craig Anderson, who was struck by a pickup truck driven by a white teen in June 2011. Dominick did not participate in Anderson's attack.

Anderson's death sparked national outrage for its heinous nature, particularly since it took place in Mississippi, a state that has struggled to overcome a long history of racism. The FBI said its investigation into the attacks is continuing.

"This behavior, which seeks to deprive others of their civil rights based on the color of their skin, cannot be tolerated," Daniel McMullen, FBI special agent in charge in Jackson, said in a statement.

Jackson, which is about 79 percent black, is the state capital and Mississippi's largest city.

Dominick, who lives in nearby Brandon, Mississippi, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Jackson to one count of conspiracy to commit federal hate crimes.

In one incident, Dominick and others used a sling shot to shoot metal ball bearings at African-Americans during a trip to Jackson they planned specifically to harass minorities, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.

The group sought out victims they thought were drunk or homeless and therefore less likely to report an assault, the department said.

In Anderson's case, several attackers spotted him in a parking lot in June 2011, jumped out of their vehicles and punched him in the face. When he fell, one of the group struck him with a pickup truck and shouted "white power," authorities said.

Five others previously pleaded guilty: Deryl Paul Dedmon, 20; Dylan Wade Butler, 21; John Aaron Rice, 19; William Kirk Montgomery, 23; and Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 20.

Dedmon, who struck Anderson with a pickup truck, has been sentenced to life in prison. The others are awaiting sentencing.

(This story has been corrected to fix Jackson's black population figure to 79 percent from 37 percent)

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, David Bailey and M.D. Golan)

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