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Oklahoma Hate CrimeCharles Cannon, 26, Michael McLaughlin, 41, and Brian Kerstetter, 32, were all convicted of a hate crime today by a federal grand jury for assault of a 29-year-old Black man, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

The jury decided that their attack of the victim at a bus stop in downtown Houston violated the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act enacted in October 2009.

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Matthew Shepard, 22, was a gay, White man who was brutally tortured, pistol-whipped then left for dead because of his sexual orientation on October 6, 1998. James Byrd, Jr., 48, was a Black man tied to a pick-up truck by three White supremacists on June 7, 1998, who then dragged him along an asphalt road until his body struck the edge of a culvert, severing his arm and head.

The defendants in this case were identified as White supremacists by their tattoos. They were also heard screaming racial slurs as they beat their victim, according to a witness who called 911. All men face a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Today’s convictions under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act show that hate crimes are far too common in this country,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division.  “The department will continue to use every available tool to identify and prosecute hate crimes whenever and wherever they occur.”

The sentencing is scheduled for July 16, 2012.

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